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Mind-Bending Light at Science Alive!

4 Sep 2023 12:10 PM | Anonymous

Science Alive! is the largest, single, interactive, mobile science exhibition in Australia, which has been running since 2006.

This year, for the first time, the South Australian branch of the AIP (AIP SA) participated in the event, offering ‘Mind-Bending Light’ – a series of hands-on optics demonstrations – amongst the 80 interactive exhibits at the Adelaide Showgrounds from August 4-6.

“The motivation behind the development of these activities is to inspire the next generation of physicists in Australia with fun, hands-on activities,” said Dr Chris Perrella, AIP SA Secretary and co-developer of the activities.

The activities were a hit, with over 750 visitors to the exhibit over the three days, aged from 4 to 18 years old.

The activities included:

  • Laser Playpen – where  a series of mirrors, prisms and gratings are used to align a laser onto a receiver and play music via a “Laser Radio”
  • Jelly Waveguides – where different shaped jellies and a ‘light dragon’ are used to re-direct laser light onto different detectors, illustrating the principles of total internal reflection and optical fibres.
  • Absorbing Light – where different coloured lasers and jellies are used to demonstrate the meaning of colours.

This would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the AIP SA branch members, with 12 volunteers assisting for a total of 75 hours, 27 battery changes, and more than 30 packets of jelly used.

“The SA Branch is already planning a repeat performance for 2024, as Science Alive! represents a fantastic opportunity to engage with and excite the general public about physics,” says AIP SA Branch Chair, Stephen Warren-Smith.

August was a busy month for the AIP SA Outreach team, also running workshops using these activities as part of the 70th Conference of the Australian Science Teachers Association (CONASTA) and the Flinders University STEM Enrichment Academy in July 2023.

AIP SA thanks SASTA/The Oliphant Science Awards for hosting the Mind-Bending Light station, as well as the OptoFab node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility for providing 3D printing services, The University of Adelaide for assistance developing the Laser Radios, and the Adelaide Optica Student Chapter for providing additional volunteers.

For additional information please contact the AIP SA Branch Treasurer at

AIPSA/Adelaide Optical Student Chapter volunteers Darryl Jones, Sabrina Slimani, Ben Sparkes and Harry Noel Lees excited to welcome their first visitors of the day at Science Alive!

AIPSA Secretary Chris Perrella explaining the Laser Playpen activity to eager participants at Science Alive!

Adelaide Optical Student Chapter President Gabriel Britto Monteiro demonstrating the Jelly Waveguide activity at Science Alive!

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