Friday, August 10, 2012

Week Six

Here we are, the last day.  This week we worked on polishing the system to leave a complete demonstration.  We also got some data to prove that our system does indeed correct for more than 90% of the aberrations.  Then we got to strut our stuff in presentations.

On Wednesday, Maureen and I gave a group presentation to our fellow RETs and the lab.  The best part is that because we made a demonstration, we were able to us it in the presentation.  And believe it or not, everything worked!

On Thursday we participated in a poster session - think science fair for grown ups (actually, I'd like to model our science fairs after real poster sessions).  While people mingled and ate, we showed off our demonstration to anyone with interest.  Again, a success (and the whoopie pies were delicious too!).

One of the greatest take-aways from this experience, even more than the awesome science content and lab experience, was the joy of working with a group of incredibly passionate science teachers.  There is such a strong community of teachers out here, looking to make science education - and the world - a better place.  I am proud to be a part of it all!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Week Five

Only one week left!?  I can't believe the summer has gone by this fast!

This week was all about troubleshooting.  It's amazing how much time it can take to go through lines and lines of code.  We spent close to two days looking at all the subroutines our program uses and cleaning it up.  The payoff is that our controller works much better now.  We can get a flat wavefront with less that 60 nanometers of error.

We spent another chunk of the week making our "aberration induction device".  After many experiments with nail polish we realized it was creating too much variation.  So we moved on to try a clear polyurethane spray.  We coated our glass disk with the spray and let it dry for several hours.  Amazingly enough, it's just about the right about of  "messed-up"!  It's enough that it changes the wavefront but not so much that our DM can't correct for it.

As we start to wrap-up, I've been asked to reflect on this experience.  Here are my revelations:

- I miss research!  When I was in college, I spent a good portion of my time either solving physics problem sets for class or thinking about research problems at work.  It is so fun to have my brain engaged on these types of problems.  I hope to bring this back to my students.

- Science is never as easy or simple as we make it seem in school.  The real joy in science is trying to solve a problem that no one else has solved before.  I hope to do a lot more of this kind of authentic problem solving in my classroom.