December 6, 2019 -- They saw the light during a recent event at a Leonardo DRS site in San Diego.
About 25 California girl scouts in the fourth to eighth grades participated in an event staged by the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) committee of Leonardo DRS Daylight Solutions. The purpose was to introduce girls to the science of optics, the branch of physics that studies the behavior and properties of light.
Optics and the related field of photonics comprise the heart of Daylight’s business. The company supplies mid-infrared quantum cascade laser sources to the defense and other industries as well as customers in life sciences and research.
Cynthia Maley, a senior manufacturing engineer who specializes in optical test engineering, demonstrated principles of a pinhole camera and the inner workings of a kaleidoscope. The girls also enjoyed light-focused fun with bubbles and accepted Daylight's legendary laser beam alignment challenge.
"We use a red diode laser mounted on a wooden block taped to a table," explained Tom Watson, chairman of the Daylight outreach committee, which organized the event. "In conjunction with that, we have freestanding mirrors, a couple of targets and bullseyes, another block with a PVC tube, a beam-splitter, and extra materials such as popsicle sticks.
These elements help to point a laser successfully at various targets, Watson said. “You can take the mirrors and figure out how to position them on the table so they reflect the laser beam onto a target, reflect the beam through the PVC tube to hit a target, and so on. For some of the challenges, the girls had to build their own custom mirror mounts using the popsicle sticks and tape.”
Maley and two engineering colleagues, Alyssa Saad and Kim Saldana, discussed their experiences and career trajectories as professionals in the photonics industry. They also responded to such questions as "What steps did you follow to get to where you are today? Do I have to be good at math to be an engineer? What do you like to do outside of work?"
"I think the event made the girls aware that many different kinds of women can enjoy working in optics," Maley said. "Now that they are aware of it as a career, there is a much higher chance that some will choose an optics profession."
Read more about the event at https://spie.org/news/is-there-a-badge-for-refractive-optics?SSO=1.