Lighting up the young: Involving student volunteers in IYL 2015 activities

The International Year of Light will bring together people from different cultures, of different ages and with different experiences. In many countries students will be directly involved in activities related to the International Year of Light. Due to their creativity and dedication many ideas already exist for events in the upcoming year. Furthermore, the IYL 2015 is also a unique opportunity for the different member societies of the International Association of Physics Students (IAPS) to collaborate and show their enthusiasm for light to a wider audience.

IAPS members at the ICPS COnference. Credits: Matthias Zimmerman

IAPS members at the ICPS COnference. Credits: Matthias Zimmerman

At an international school day on 10 November 2015, physics students in various countries will visit schools and encourage children from across the globe to carry out their own simple experiments related to light. Resources such as laser education kits, kindly provided by several partners of the IYL 2015, are aiming at both primary and secondary school students and can be used for this purpose. University students are the perfect partners for this kind of activities, bringing new ideas, knowledge and enthusiasm to the schools. In order to help these students, IAPS plans to create a booklet of simple and inexpensive light-related experiments that will be written by and shared with physics students all over the world.

An example of such an experiment is the construction of a pinhole camera – a camera with no lens. Such a camera can be made very simply by using a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light passes from the source through this hole and projects an upsides-down image on to the opposite side of the box. IAPS are going to hold an international pinhole photo contest based on this experiment, collecting pinhole pictures from different regions of the world.

Furthermore, light and light-based technologies will also play an important role during the two main events of IAPS in 2015 – the International Conference of Physics Students in Zagreb and the PLANCKS physics competition in Leiden. Both events are organised by students for students and will emphasize the celebratory year with special multidisciplinary lectures and exercises focusing on the theme of light.

Northern Lights. Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Northern Lights. Credits: Wikimedia Commons

IAPS also coordinates, informs and encourages its members to get involved in the International Year of Light directly. To raise the awareness of how optical technologies influence our daily lives many different events are planned by our member societies around the world on a national and local level. At a summer school near Lake Balaton in Hungary, physics students will gather to study light and light-related technologies. For a more fundamental outlook on the subject, other students will gather at a winter school in Linz on the subject of Gravity and Light. Another planned event is an excursion to admire the Northern Lights in Sweden. This is a distinctive example of the direct connection between physics and nature which is displayed in a very spectacular manner!

However a special focus also lies on spreading the word about the International Year of Light to as many people as possible. This will be done via events such as a physics show “Light and Night” and different exhibitions including “Light at the museum” in Canada. There will also be public lectures focusing on optical illusions, slow light and other interesting features of light. With these events we aim to show that light is important in different aspects in our lives and in fact the lives of everyone in the world.

The International Association of Physics Students also plans to collaborate in specific events with other international student organisations with which we are connected through the Informal Forum of International Student Organisations (IFISO). In this way we aim to raise the awareness of the IYL 2015 outside the world of physics.

For all these different kinds of projects, we try to attract students from all over the world who support the International Year of Light with their ideas, motivation and spirit. This is, along with the support of our various partners, what makes the events of this special year possible.


SAMSUNGMatthias Zimmermann is a PhD student at the Department of Quantum Physics at Ulm University, Germany. He is the president of the International Association of Physics Students, a global organisation of young physicists, which aims at establishing a network of young scientists for both academic and social exchange beyond national borders. Its growing success is bringing together students from many countries, enriching the work of the association with their activities and enthusiasm about physics.


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