Kids @ Work Day 2006

April 2006

Students get an orientation in the LLE Coliseum.

On April 27, sixty-one students took a break from school to get another kind of education. The students, all children of Laboratory for Laser Energetics employees and between 8 and 14 years of age, came to the Lab for the fifth annual Kids@Work Day.

Evolved from "Take Your Child to Work Day," "Kids@Work Day" goes beyond simply allowing sons and daughters to observe their parents working. Kids@Work is a structured morning of hands-on, optics experiences.

Students get a view of the OMEGA facility in it's viewing gallery.

"Kids see lots of people doing their jobs - teachers, police officers, people on television - but they don't see scientists at work," said John Schoen, LLE Administrative Division Director and organizer of this year's event. "Kids@Work gives young people a chance to see and appreciate what scientists do."

The 2006 Kids@Work Day began with a welcoming presentation given by Schoen. The children were then divided into groups that spent the morning rotating though different activities: Tours of the OMEGA and OMEGA EP laser facilities as well as demonstrations of target fabrication and light modulation.

Students get a look at the new OMEGA EP facility.

Senior Scientist Sean Regan led the tour of the OMEGA laser facility. Regan started outside the Control Room where he explained a schematic of the OMEGA laser system. The group then observed Control Room operations while the Shot Director and technicians were preparing for the day's shots. The tour concluded in the viewing gallery so the children could get a good view of the football field-size laser bay and the target bay.

Students perform hands on experiments.  Here the student observes a plasma discharge.

The size and high-tech atmosphere of the facility had an impact on many of the students. "They were impressed," said Regan.

Research Engineer Mark Bonino gave the students the opportunity to see how plasma deposition systems work in target fabrication. The children performed hands-on projects using florescent light bulbs, Petri dishes, and commercial plasma balls, so they could see how aluminum acts as a gas retention barrier in target fabrication.

Students experience a simulated preshot briefing.

The kids enjoyed the hands-on experiments. "Especially since they were able to take the Petri dishes home with them," said Bonino.

Sam Morse, OMEGA EP Project Manager, led the students on a tour and simulation in the new OMEGA EP laser facility which is in the third year of its five-year construction plan.

Students get a demonstration of sound communication using light waves.

"I wanted to create the mindset that they were future laser system operators," said Morse. "We simulated a mini-shot day and went through a pre-shot briefing then they were allowed to sit at the Shot Director's station and use the microphone and headphones."

Morse's tour concluded with a question and answer session in the visitors' gallery where the kids, many who had participated in previous Kids@Work Days, could see the progress made in the construction of the EP laser.

A student examines a hologram.

Scientist Bill Donaldson demonstrated how light can be used to communicate sound. Using acousto-optics modulators, Donaldson converted the light of a traveling laser beam into a series of dots displayed on a screen. By adjusting the frequency of the modulator, he was able to flicker the dots on and off. He then used the modulators to convert the laser to sounds which could be heard by the students using a "boom box" amplifier. The students learned how the telecommunications industry uses this technology to transmit information along fiber optic cables using a modulated laser beam which is converted into sound, images, and other kinds of data when it gets to its destination.

A student asked a scientist a question while eating his pizza.

After completing all four activities, the groups came together for a demonstration of holography, i.e., moving three-dimensional images. Led by Senior Research Engineer Terry Kessler, the children saw holographic portraits and diffraction gratings used on high power laser systems. At the end of the demonstration, each child received an embossed holographic rose printed on foil.

The day concluded with a pizza lunch.

Some lab employees enjoy Kids@Work Day as much as the children do and look forward to next year's day with the kids.

"I didn't give the kids anything this year on my tour like they received at some of the other activities," said Sam Morse, thinking ahead to 2007. "Next year I'll have the best toys of all."