Young children, the next generation of innovators, learn about photonics at a PHABLABS hub.
Feb 24 2017 Posted: 10:27 GMT

PHABLABS 4.0 aims to inspire young minds, future generations of entrepreneurs, technicians and engineers in photonics, building bridges between science and research to support the next revolution in digitisation

NUI Galway has been selected as one of 11 European top-level photonics institutes, and the first in Ireland, to join forces with PHABLABS 4.0, a European-wide project making photonics – the technology of light – accessible to citizens through a new hub in Galway.

The ambitious project will provide a suite of 33 Photonics Workshops, 11 Photonics Challenger Projects, and Photonics Toolkits customised for three specific user groups: Young minds (10-14 years), students (15-18 years) and young professionals, entrepreneurs and technicians (+18 years). Located at the Maker Space in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, the PHABLABS centre will provide access and academic support to entrepreneurs who wish to prototype their ideas and avail in the use of novel 3D printing facilities and materials.

Commenting on the announcement of the PHABLABS 4.0 hub, Professor Martin Leahy, Chair of Applied Physics at NUI Galway said: “We are delighted to be selected among the best Photonics centres in Europe to harness and combine the world of photonics with the growing creative ecosystem of PHABLABS. Photonics is one of the key enabling technologies driving the internet, cinema, medical diagnostics and device manufacture, art, intelligent robotics and ultimately the economy. PHABLABS 4.0 is a global, collaborative, knowledge sharing network that provides a platform for learners, educators, technologists, researchers, makers and innovators, providing stimulus for local entrepreneurship. We hope the Galway hub will be used regularly and that the technologies you have dreamed about can be brought to life.”

Led by Professor Leahy, the Centre for Photonics and Imaging at the School of Physics in NUI Galway, will promote photonics and encourage the next generation of innovators at the Galway hub. Photonics, using photons or particles of light in many applications, can provide game-changing solutions to future societal challenges in a wide scale of domains such as energy, aerospace, mobility, food safety, healthcare, bio-photonics, ICT and manufacturing for industry. For now, photonics' huge potential is still a great unknown to many people, even though it is all around us and commonly used in everyday life through; smartphones, TV and large screens, 3D applications, smart driving cars, even healthy vegetables involve light technology.

By integrating photonics and its many applications PHABLABS 4.0 will allow young people to put seemingly unattainable ideas into practice with laser equipment, LED, lenses, optical fibre and programmable electronic chips in a way that is both fun and inspiring. The project aims to spark ideas and pave the road to innovative concepts that become a starting point for a bright future as a technician, engineer or researcher.

The Photonics Workshops, Photonics Challenger Projects and Photonics Toolkits will stimulate hands-on design, fabrication, experiments, and the building of innovative systems with photonics components. Next to personal development, teamwork and co-creation, the PHABLABS 4.0 modules will nurture the 21st Century skills of the participants.

After the creation and design of modules in the first development phase, PHABLABS Galway will test all Workshops and Challenger Projects with the necessary components for hands-on design, fabrication and experiments (from June 2017-March 2018). From June 2017, different user groups such as schools will be invited to the PHABLAB on campus to participate in test panels and give their feedback.

Hugo Thienpont, coordinator of the project and director of VUB B-PHOT Brussels Photonics, explains: “There is a huge opportunity to inspire real interest in science among young people by engaging them in real-life experiments. Getting acquainted with new technologies to create concrete projects can speed up the learning curve fundamentally. The challenge is to excite them in an attractive and inspiring way to achieve meaningful impact. PHABLABS 4.0 builds bridges between science and research to support the next revolution in digitisation.”

For more details on PHABLABS 4.0 visit www.phablabs.eu.

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