In the Community

The College of Optical Sciences thrives on community outreach, with faculty, staff and student participation bringing optics education out to local school kids. In fact, we even offer a course, OPTI 489/589, specifically to help undergraduate and graduate students develop the skills of communicating with a wide range of audiences.

Provided below are some of our popular outreach opportunities:


International Year of Light

Find out what the College of Optical Sciences is doing to support the 2015 International Year of Light.

Light plays a vital role in our daily lives and is an imperative cross-cutting discipline of science in the 21st century, and we're proud to support the outreach and education of light. 

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The College of Optical Sciences is a proud supporter of the National Photonics Initiative.

National Photonics InitiativeThe NPI brings together experts from industry, academia and government to assemble recommendations that will help guide U.S. funding and investment in key photonics-driven fields. 

New opportunities in these fields — including solar power, high-efficiency lighting, genome mapping, high-tech manufacturing, nuclear threat identification, cancer detection and new optical capabilities vital to supporting the Internet’s growth — offer the potential for even greater societal impact in the next few decades. U.S. investment in photonics will grow our economy, protect and improve the lives of our people, and position the United States as a global technology leader.

To learn more about NPI, please visit

The World of Optics

Professor Michael Nofziger, aka Dr. Mike, specializes in undergraduate optics instruction, curriculum development, design and fabrication of student laboratory experiments, and optics outreach to kids of all ages. He says, "Good teaching is more than just having students learn equations. Good teaching is really about motivating students to use their creative and critical thinking skills."

With those tenets in mind, Dr. Mike's presentations are geared to the age and special interests of each group.

  • Optics for Nursery-School Kids: The curriculum for this half-hour segment focuses on a hands-on experience of light, color, lenses and mirrors. Students peer through kaleidoscopes and lenses, grab for virtual floating pigs, watch pennies disappear into a the magic bank (done with mirrors, of course), and light up the dark with phosphorescing bugs. A laser light show caps the lesson.

  • Optics for Kids of All Ages and Their Families: This "fun with optics" hour is designed for children of all ages — toddlers through teens — and their parents. The event, which focuses on having a good time with light and color, begins with short segments to interest younger children, then gradually moves on to more complex material for older kids and teenagers. The lesson includes special optical effects as well as hands-on demos.

To experience the World of Optics through one of Dr. Mike's demonstrations, please contact him at 520-626-8363 or

Kaleidoscopes for Everyone

The kaleidoscope was invented by Sir David Brewster in 1816, and it quickly became a popular optical toy. Throughout the years, the kaleidoscope, in various forms, has always been a colorful introduction to the world of optics. Kids (of all ages!) love to look through them.

The word kaleidoscope, translated from Greek, means "beautiful form viewer": "kalos" (beautiful) + "eidos" (form) + "scopos" (viewer) = kaleidoscope!

The Kaleidoscopes for Everyone project translates into an optical success story: kids + mirrors + plumbing parts + imagination = FUN!

The project uses a classic three-mirror design with front-surface mirrors. The housing is made from PVC plumbing parts, foam insulation and a plastic petri dish. Colored plastic beads are used as a child-safe source of infinite color combinations. When built, this kaleidoscope is durable and inexpensive, yet it offers an outstanding optical image.

This kaleidoscope has been built and "battle-tested" by more than 200 kids, ranging in age from seven to 17. In every case, students end up with an excitement, amazement and sense of pride that cannot be matched by simply through a commercial scope.
This demo makes an appearance every year at Tucson's Math Science and Technology FunFest, but you can always make your own!

Optics for Teachers

Laser Fun Day

Each year, the University of Arizona Student Optics Chapter invites Tucson-area kids to see the world in a new light, as the Meinel Building turns into an all-day hands-on optics extravaganza: Laser Fun Day. Highlights from previous years include a spy-style laser maze, a treasure hunt with prizes and dozens of demonstration booths.

A big thanks to the organizations that provide support for Laser Fun Day: