SPIE Outreach Grants Program

Support for education and outreach projects that light the future of optics and photonics

Inspire others with optics and photonics

SPIE Outreach Grants promote awareness of light-based technologies through a variety of events and activities. From classroom outreach kits to educational community displays, grant-funded projects inform and inspire diverse audiences of all ages.

A woman and a girl smile happily as they put lenses on their eyes at an outreach event

Grant details

Three educators participate in a light activity.Make a difference through general optics and photonics outreach or International Day of Light (IDL)-specific events! Submit your proposal to receive up to $5,000.

Please note: SPIE is committed to the principles of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). We encourage all proposals to have EDI principles at their foundation.

The award process is competitive, and some proposals may receive partial funding.

The 2024 SPIE Outreach Grant application closed 1 December 2023. The 2025 grant application will open in Fall 2024.


  • Applicants must be current SPIE Members
  • Qualifying not-for-profit organizations, such as universities, optics centers, science centers, primary and secondary schools, youth clubs, industry associations, and international optical societies, are eligible for outreach activity support, as long as the applicant is an SPIE Member. STEM activities must have an optics or photonics component.
  • An endorsement from a staff member or advisor at the applying organization is required as part of the application process.

Evaluation criteria

The key criterion in evaluating and ranking applications is the potential to increase optics and photonics awareness and impact students and/or the larger community.

A point system is used to judge applications on:

  • potential to impact chosen audience
  • potential to raise awareness and interest in optics and photonics
  • clarity and structure of the project
  • clear timeline and budget

Please contact outreach@spie.org if you experience technical problems or have questions.

2024 recipients

Five children wear diffraction glasses to participate in an outreach event.Fourteen projects were selected for funding in 2024, with awards totaling more than $45,000.

  • California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA (United States): for “Lightfest!,” an International Day of Light symposium that will include fun and interactive musical-optics demos and an opportunity for shared microscopy facilities to present their optics-enabled work.
  • Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee SPIE Student Chapter (India): for “Optics and Photonics Progress 2024,” a series of two-day school visits with competitive and hands-on events to help children from Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh understand light-based phenomena and photonics concepts.
  • Information Technology University of the Punjab SPIE Student Chapter (Pakistan): for "Umarkot Optics Empowerment Initiative: Bridging Gaps, Fostering Innovation,” which will promote optics and photonics education and break down learning barriers for young students in the Umerkot District. Activities will include school visits, distance training through a virtual support center, and a collaborative process of developing solutions for local challenges.
  • ITATRA (Madagascar): for “Science Open Day,” which will feature activities that demonstrate optics concepts, and “VISION 2024,” which will enable students to see and understand the world through lens technology.
  • Montana State University SPIE Student Chapter (United States): for an International Day of Light celebration that will include optics demonstrations at the Montana Science Center, a reception at Montana State University, and talks centered around the use of light.
  • Morgridge Institute for Research SPIE Student Chapter (United States): for “Escape the Lab!,” an optics-and-photonics-themed escape room, developed in a dynamic collaboration between the Morgridge Institute for Research, the Optical Microscopy in Medicine Lab, and the SPIE/Optica chapter at University of Wisconsin-Madison. The escape room simulates a scenario where students aged 14 to 18 find themselves “locked” in a lab after a day of experiments.
  • PONYS (Physics & Optics Naples Young Students) SPIE Student Chapter (Italy): for “Parla Potabile - La scienza per tutt3” (“Digestible Talk – Science for Everyone”), which aims to promote scientific culture through experiments related to electromagnetism, optics, mechanics, wave phenomena, microwaves, combustion. Discussions will be led by guest experts in astronomy, particle physics, biology, and medicine in an accessible and engaging format.
  • Quaid-i-Azam University (Pakistan): for “Educational Outreach Activities in Optics and Photonics,” which will conduct follow-up outreach activities at female universities of Pakistan visited in 2023. This year’s hands-on optics activities will build on fundamental concepts explored last year and move on to more advanced concepts.
  • Stellenbosch University SPIE Student Chapter (South Africa): for “Annual Physics Outreach Road trip 2024,” a tour intended to raise awareness among high-school students from different backgrounds about the enriching career opportunities in physics and science.
  • Sydney Photonics Industry Network (Australia): for “IDL 2024 Industry Showcase,” which will include a panel presentation exploring optics and photonics careers in Australia (intended for university students) as well as talks, networking sessions, and demo booths for the general public to discuss and showcase the photonics industry and its technologies in Australia and New Zealand.
  • University of Guanajuato SPIE Student Chapter (Mexico): for “Optical memories: Open Celebration of International Day of Light,” a two-day event that will include interactive workshops, lab tours, a night-time astronomical camp, a day-time solar observation, educational games, and conferences. Participants will include chapter members, faculty members, invited students from local schools (from elementary through high school), and the general public.
  • University I Jaume SPIE Student Chapter (Spain): for “International Day of Light and Mediterranean Meeting of Young researchers in Optics MMYRO Outreach Fair,” which will provide activities for the general public that inspire a love of science and light a passion for optics science in young minds.
  • University of Rochester SPIE Student Chapter (United States): for “Optics Outreach Tent @ The Rochester Lilac Festival,” which will use face-to-face time at a large community event to drive public interest and engagement with optics, photonics, and imaging (OPI), and to celebrate the International Day of Light on May 16.
  • Yerevan State University SPIE Student Chapter (Armenia): for “Physics & We Summer Camp,” which hosts a five-day camp that gives high school and first- and second-year college students research-engineering projects to complete in coach-supervised teams of 8-10 people. The goal is to introduce participants to applications of optics and photonics while they are at the critical stage of determining their future career.

Congratulations to each nonprofit organization. Thank you for opening doors to the wonders of optics and photonics while sparking curiosity, igniting imaginations, and laying the groundwork for future innovation.