“Iluminando el Futuro” is a STEM program that supports scientists and engineers in the rigorous creation of outreach activities. In 2021 I had the good fortune to be part of it and learned from experienced professionals about planning, teaching, and evaluating outreach activities.
To create our outreach activity, each participant followed an online course which also included online meetings where we shared our ideas and received feedback from the instructors and other students from different parts of Latin America. After finishing the training, we were ready to take action and apply the learned techniques to benefit our communities. Since I was studying for my PhD in León, Mexico, I planned an activity forhigh school students called ¿Qué onda con la luz? I also made an online version for secondary students of Arica, Chile, because that is my second hometown (I am from Peru).
The virtual activity in Chile was done in collaboration with Octavio Quiroz, a physics teacher at the school “Colegio integrado Eduardo Frei Montalva”. We had 30 students participating from the first year of secondary school. We had two sessions in which we built a homemade spectroscope with recycled materials and discussed the meaning of white light. Three videos summarizing the key concepts and the experiment were created and made available for the students who were not attending school due to COVID-19 restrictions.
In León, Mexico, we coordinated an in-person activity with Dr Jorge Molina, the physics teacher of “CECyTE plantel Leon SJB”. A total of 40 students, 16 and 17 years old, participated with great enthusiasm in all the activities. The opportunity for face-to-face interactions and the ability to see and read the students’ expressions made the feedback more effective. Also, sharing the same physical space resulted in a complete understanding of white light. In addition, the activity was also evaluated using printed materials with questions that were answered at different times along the activity. At the end, some students were eager to share their final impressions and even expressed their desire to replicate the experience with their relatives. They kept their spectroscopes and lenses to share their new knowledge with family members. One of the students said, “the impact of light on everything we see is incredible! I realized that our eyes are the perfect machines to see everything in color. Now, I want to teach my nephews all of what I’ve learned.”
I am glad that I joined the “Iluminando el Futuro” program because it gave me the tools to be more organized and efficient in delivering my STEM message. Previously, I had participated in organizing outreach activities, but I never did it on my own. Furthermore, the skills I obtained through this program are also very useful in my career, because as a postdoc, I now have to supervise students and teach. I really appreciate all the labor for establishing this program as I think outreach activities can be life-changing experiences, especially for young people looking for potential career paths. I wish I could have known earlier that pursuing a scientific career is achievable for normal people like me. I know that science is creativity, hard work, and beauty, and I feel it must be shared.