By Patricia Daukantas, OPN Contributing Writer
LaserFest--the yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first laser--is not over yet. At this year’s FiO/LS meeting, LaserFest has a strong presence in the exhibit hall.
Since arriving in Rochester (N.Y., U.S.A.), I’ve been hearing a lot about the Laser Maze, so by the time the exhibit hall opened yesterday morning, I could hardly wait to try it. The University of Rochester’s student chapter of OSA developed the maze with a grant from the LaserFest program. Previously the students had set it up at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, but they moved it over to the OSA meeting for the enjoyment of attendees.
The premise of the Laser Maze will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen one of those bank-robbery or jewel-heist movies. A laser and a light sensor make up part of a complete circuit. Interrupt the laser beam and the circuit breaks.
In this case, the circuit was powering a small music player, so breaking the beam stopped the music (instead of setting off an alarm like in the movies). The laser beam bounced side to side several times off parallel mirrors close to the floor, so the maze walker had to step through the gaps between the reflected beams.
Of course, in the movies the audience sees the laser beams from the side, thanks to either smoke or computer-generated effects. No such luck with the Laser Maze, however. The LaserFest people had a small theatrical “smoke” machine, but due to a combination of the bright ceiling lights and the ventilation in the exhibit hall, the particles did not linger long in the air. Thus, the maze walker had to look for tiny red dots on the mirrors and imagine where the beam might have gone, based on equal angles of incidence and reflection.
Since I didn’t want to embarrass anyone else, I had someone take photos of me trying to step through the maze.Here I’m starting off on the right foot.
I’m home safe after figuring out the first beam path.
Another step, probably higher than it needs to be.
Do I still have what it takes?
Dang! I just nicked that last horizontal beam!
To make the maze even more challenging, the Rochester chapter set up a second set of reflecting beams and mirrors … vertically. Technically, to complete the maze, one had to get through both the horizontal and vertical sections without interrupting the recorded music. However, I probably would have had to slide myself on the floor to get through that maze, and I wasn’t feeling quite that acrobatic.
OSA Student Chapter Competition 2010
At last year’s FiO/LS, OSA student chapters built miniature solar-powered cars and raced them. This year, they were given a different challenge: to create an educational tabletop exhibit to teach young people about one or more principles of optics.
Yesterday I visited several of the chapters’ tables, but since the competition is continuing into today, I’ll write up more details for tomorrow’s blog entry.
Frontiers in Optics, Laserfest, Lasers, Optics and pop culture, Photography