Finisar employees received a sneak peak Thursday of a new mobile STEM lab that will help teach young people across the region about optics and laser technology. The Mobile Laser Lab will make its official debut in Frisco on Saturday before travelling to different schools and events across the North Texas in the months to come.
The new mobile lab represents a partnership between Finisar and the Frisco-based Sci-Tech Discovery Center, which encourages children to explore and learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Through this lab, organizers said they hope to expand this message to those who may otherwise not be exposed to what STEM careers have to offer.
“Where we are in Frisco, we have a lot of fortunate kids whose parents want to take them to these educational experiences,” Sci-Tech interim Executive Director Janet Madrazo said.
With the lab, Madrazo said Sci-Tech will take these learning experiences to students who do not have the same access.
“They ultimately may not go into it (STEM), but students can be inspired by it and continue into a lifetime of learning,” she said.
Finisar Sherman General Manager and Vice President Jeff Brown said the experiments help simulate some of the science that goes on daily at Finisar’s Sherman plant, where optics technology, including components used in the Apple iPhone, is manufactured.
“These experiments really represent the fundamental aspects of what we do at Finisar,” Brown said.
Brown said the experiments are a good way for educators to put these concepts in a form that is tactile and physical rather than simply being in the pages of a science book. Through that, Brown said students can see the real life application of these sciences.
“Many times you go into a museum and see this amazing stuff, but you don’t know what to do with it,” he said.
Madrazo said the lab will be used across the entire North Texas region, stretching from the Metroplex to Sherman and Denison. The lab will likely start making appearances at events and other activities before moving on to schools due to the end of the school year, she said.
The lab is made up of different stations that each allow students a hands-on lesson in different aspects of laser and optic technology. One of the stations set up Thursday allowed Finisar employees to adjust small lenses in front of a light in the shape of the letter “F.” The image on the other end would be focused, diffused or flipped depending on the combination of lenses that were used.
Another experiment in the lab involved adjusting focal lengths using crystals in front of lasers. As objects were placed in front of the beams, the lasers could be redirected or split across a wider area.
“This challenges kids to see how many ways they can refract the light,” Sci-Tech educator Stacy Egan said.
The optics lab is one of two STEM labs that are currently in development. Madrazo said Sci-Tech is also working on a mobile maker lab that will act as a smaller version of the lab available at its Frisco museum.
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @mhutchinsHD on Twitter.