The Center for Freeform Optics
An Industry/University Cooperative Research Center

The Optics Suitcase

Child with Optics

As part of the Education Program of the Optical Society Rochester Section, and with support from the OSA Foundation, Prof. Stephen Jacobs is the architect of a middle school outreach presentation called “The Optics Suitcase”. Since 1999, over 650 Suitcases have been distributed free-of charge throughout the world.

Abstract: The Optics Suitcase is a middle school presentation designed to excite children about the field of optics. It contains a guide (translated into five languages) and series of demonstrations that explore color in white light. Called “take-home theme packets”, three experiments are given away to each child and show how color is created by passing light through a diffraction grating, between crossed polarizers, or with a sheet of encapsulated liquid crystals. The Suitcase contains re-usable items such as a large lens, a silicon wafer and a pair of large polarizers; there are enough packets for 50 students. A presentation takes ~45 minutes. The level of presentation is adjustable to accommodate grade school or home schooled children, middle school students, boys and girls in youth groups, high school students, and undergraduates in college (see Canavesi –SPIE 2012). Potential Suitcase recipients apply on-line through the OSA Foundation ( The Suitcase has become a favored means for starting up local outreach activities in new OSA student chapters. A link is given to the 2013 distribution report recently published by the OSA National.

Full Paper >
2013 Optics Suitcase Report

Spring 2014