STEM Education Kits
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is a term associated with educational curriculum in schools to improve competitiveness in these fields. SSS Optical Technologies (SSSOT) recognizes the importance of STEM education by providing STEM kits. These kits offer hands-on learning in addition to being fun projects. SSSOT currently offers two kits:
SSSOT offers an experimental science/optics kit that introduces students to the exciting new filed of light-driven actuators (optical motors) that convert the energy of light directly to mechanical motion. The kit is based on the innovation of Dr. Sergey Sarkisov, the founder of the Company.
The kit is designed for high-school and college students and supports the lab course that consists of the following three experimental modules.
1) Light-driven photomechanical polymer oscillators. The module will make the students familiar with a light-driven oscillator made of a rectangular strip cut from a special photomechanical polymer film. The students will learn how to excite the vibrations of the strip with light pulses from a low-power laser diode. By tuning the frequency of the light pulses they will be able to observe several photomechanical resonances of such an oscillator when the amplitude of the vibrations dramatically increases. Based on the dimensions of the strip and using special equations they will be able to determine the elasticity module of the polymer film and predict other resonances (see the slide show/video to the right).
2) Light-driven photomechanic polymer auto-oscillators. The module will provide hands-on experience in setting up the auto-oscillations of a rectangular strip of the photomechanical polymer. The strip illuminated with a continuous light beam will convert the light energy directly in mechanical vibrations. Using the equations of the vibrating mechanical strip, the students will estimate the frequency of the auto-oscillations and compare with the experimental data (see the slide show/video below).
3) Light-driven photomechanic polymer acturators (optical motors). The module will provide hands-on experience in setting up a light-driven actuator (optical motor) that will rotate of a balance wheel of a conventional mechanical alarm clock. The actuator will made of an L-shaped strip of the photomechanical polymer. Each leg of "L" will be illuminated with the sequences of periodic light pulses shifted by a quarter of period with respect to each other. The free end of the actuator with move along a closed loop trajectory and will push the wheel while touching it. The students will build the experimental setup and observe and analyze the performance of the actuator (see the slide show/video below).
The kit is designed for college students and supports the lab course that consists of the following seven modules. THE EXPENSIVE EQUIPMENT (COSTS > $5,000) IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE KIT. IT MUST BE PROVIDED BY THE CUSTOMER. IN CASE OF LACKING OF SOME PIECES OF EQUIPMENT, THE KIT CAN BE MODIFIED TO ACCOMMODATE FOR MISSING COMPONENTS.
1) Nanophotonic laser materials. The module will make the students familiar with the sample nanopowder and nanocolloid laser materials based on the compounds of the rare earth (RE) elements. The students will learn how to characterize the crystalline structure of the materials using the X-ray diffraction (XRD) spectroscopy and how to measure the size of the nanoparticles using the Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS) method. They will also characterize the optical properties using the optical absorption and laser fluorescent spectroscopies.
2) Fiber optics. The module will provide hands-on experience in connectorizing optical fibers, measuring their characteristics (transmission/connection losses and back reflection from the connector faces) and detecting faults. The module will also teach fusion splicing of optical fibers. The students will try different types of optical fiber connectors that are used in optical fiber communication industry: SMA, ST, FC, FC/APC, and LC.
3) Semiconductor lasers. The module with provide hands-on experience in dealing with semiconductor lasers, that are used as signal sources and sources of pump energy for optical fiber amplifiers and lasers. The students will learn how to measure the power of the laser diode, driving current, how to determine the onset current of lasing, how to analyze the spectrum of the laser emission.
4) Optical fiber amplifiers. The module will train students on the principles of operation and characteristics of the Erbium-doped fiber amplifiers (EDFAs), the “work horse” of modern long haul optical fiber networks. The students will build the amplifier from basic components.This LEGO-type approach will provide the students with indispensable hands-on experience and knowledge on how the things are built inside a commercial EDFA.
5) Linear optical fiber lasers. The module will provide hands-on experience in building and characterizing fiber lasers with the linear resonator incorporating fiber Bragg grating (FBG) reflectors on both ends. The students will learn how to build a laser using a piece of Erbium doped fiber with two FBGs connected to its ends. They will be able to observe themselves the onset of lasing when the pump power from the previously studied 980-nm semiconductor laser diode will exceed the critical value of the lasing onset. The observation of such a dramatic transition from “no lasing” to “lasing” is usually very exciting for students and might work as a catalyst of their interest in STEM.
6) Ring fiber lasers. This module will provide hands-on experience in building and characterizing fiber lasers with closed ring resonators. Because optical fibers are flexible, building a ring laser using an Erbium doped fiber is much easier that building any solid ring laser. It can be conducted by an undergraduate student with rudimentary skills. After learning how to build the laser, the students will use the segments (of different length) of the Erbium-doped fiber to investigate how the length of the fiber affects its performance. The manual will instruct students how to prepare the lab reports based on their findings.
7) Nanocolloid capillary fiber amplifier and laser. This module will teach students how to use the nanophotonic laser materials (gain media) in the form of the RE-based nanocolloids for optical amplification. The students will build the system, take the oscillograms of the input and output signals, measure the gain and the output-versus-pump and the output-versus-input characteristics. The students will also get familiarized with the principles of operation of the fluidic nanocolloid capillary laser.