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Student Chapter Leadership Workshop

Optics & Photonics 2006

By Jason Hamman

Students enjoy a sunny afternoon photo.
The 5th Annual Student Chapter Leadership Workshop at Optics & Photonics included an all-time high of 109 students from 57 student chapters. Despite challenging travel conditions, lost luggage, and jetlag, a vast majority managed to arrive by the 8:30 am start time.

The day began with coffee and bagels followed by presentations on successful chapter outreach activities from Raul Hernandez-Aranda, Konstantin Karapetyan, Fenghua Li, Rajesh Mandamparambil Nair, Scott McCain, Paulino Vacas-Jacques, Yana Williams, and Kateryna Yablochkova.

To learn more about Chapter outreach activities, visit the Student Chapters page.

Student to Professional: Dr. Zhenan Bao'S Advice to Students
Focusing on post-undergraduate life, guest speaker Dr. Zhenan Bao, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, offered advice about pursuing graduate degrees and entering into career fields. Dr. Bao suggested finding a good mentor for each of the following areas:
  • Research - This person will give valuable insights into the details of your research
  • Career - Think of them as your own agent who promotes you to colleagues and potential employers
  • Social - A trusted advisor, this person will assist you in learning how to work within an organization and can help you solve any interpersonal conflicts you may have with others

Another recommendation was to learn how to best manage your time, determine what the most important tasks are, and do them first rather than the tasks you prefer. Lastly, keep in touch with your past professors, mentors, and colleagues as you never know how useful those connections could be in the future.

Outreach Rodeo

Catalin Constantinescu, Konstantin Karapetyan, Yana Williams, and María de la Paz Hernández Garay work together during the Outreach Rodeo Targeting Competition.

A new activity this year was the Outreach Rodeo! Students were randomly divided into groups that would work together to solve optics challenges.

The first challenge required using lasers and other optics equipment to concurrently send and receive encoded text messages. Teams used a variety of transmission and coding schemes such as binary, Morse code, and a number of imaginative methods using LEDs, diffraction gratings, and projection screens.

Next, groups were given a limited amount of time to construct a stationary, single-laser system to simultaneously lase multiple targets. Utilizing diffraction gratings, mirrors, and an array of miscellaneous supplies, groups overcame the difficulties of accuracy and room dynamics to produce systems that hit up to 10 targets.

The top four teams, "The Old Oak T(h)ree," "Namaste," "The Black Threes," and "Blitzkrieg" won free SPIE Field Guides and a chance in the grand prize draw. Alpesh Chaddha, of the Delhi College of Engineering, was the grand prize winner of a new Panasonic video camera complete with equipment ideal for capturing chapter events and outreach activities.

Website Competition
Alpesh Chaddha accepts the Outreach Rodeo grand prize camera gear from Dirk Fabian (left) and Jason Hamman (right), SPIE Student Services.The end of the day marked not only the close of the 2006 Student Chapter Leadership Workshop but a number of contests as well. New this year was the Chapter Website Competition which, along with encouraging chapters to update and innovate their sites, proved to be a fun and challenging activity for students as they competed for cash prizes. The International School of Photonics, India won the first place prize of $500, while the University of Connecticut, USA won the second place prize of $250. Overall, it was a great way to encourage innovation and development of the chapters' online presence and resources.

SPIE currently has 86 student chapters and more are expected in 2007. With growing numbers of student chapters and leaders, one major challenge of large conferences such as Optics and Photonics is facilitating quality interactions among students who attend. This year a number of students suggested the inclusion of break-out sessions where small groups could discuss more specific topics such as chapter organization, conference planning, education and outreach, and service projects. It was also suggested that additional social activities would further strengthen the friendships formed during the Leadership Workshop.

In coming months Student Services will be considering these suggestions, and others voiced by students at Optics & Photonics, as we plan next year's activities.

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