SciFest attracts 12000 visitors in Finland to celebrate the Power of Light

The 9th SciFest Science Festival was held in Joensuu, Finland, on 23-25 April 2015, attracting 12,000 visitors this year. The SciFest is a festival where visitors can do and play with science. Hands-on rather than just boring presentations. And the concept seems to work. There were about 100 different workshops in the event from photonics and robotics to theatre where the visitors where able to participate. Of course, light was very visible in SciFest this year, and the Institute of Photonics at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) was one of the organizers that helped the main organizer Joensuun Science Society. The theme this year was “Power of Light” to celebrate the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015).

Colourful shadows showing subtractive colours. Credit: Aarne Kukkonen
Zoom
Colourful shadows showing subtractive colours. Credit: Aarne Kukkonen

Sometimes photonics can be not so attractive-looking. So people needed to think about what kinds of activities kids would find interesting. This challenge was managed well. There were various activities from demonstrations of subtractive colours with shadows to shooting with a gun that uses light instead of bullets and gun-powder.

In addition, there were a very successful workshop, Crime Scene Physics, where kids solved a fictional crime by applying real photonics devices such as an industrial endoscope to a microscope accessory for a mobile phone. Also, several companies helped in the implementation of the workshop and they provided with the devices needed. The workshops were able to combine light-related research, education and industry. The main reason to include companies was not to advertise them or their devices, but to show that there really are companies behind those devices. And that means jobs to people.

Fortunately, many things in photonics are still visual if we just think about them in the right way. The components in laboratories are the boring ones. But if one can somehow get kids’ attention by applying the more visual aspects of light, then one has a change to inspire them to get familiar with the more serious issues as well. This can sometimes be more like playing with light. But what is wrong with playing? It seems that even older people can be inspired with visual examples of photonics, and these can be used to initiate the conversation on more serious photonics issues like light poverty in too many places around the world.

Professor Pasi Vahimaa, Director of the Institute of Photonics at the University of Eastern Finland

SciFest is arranged in Joensuu Areena. It is a big sports hall and thus the basic atmosphere is cold as in a classroom. However, with proper lights, the place becomes totally different. Finnish light artist Kari Kola, who also did the light installation at the IYL 2015 Opening Ceremony in Paris, arranged the lights in the Arena. The empty space above people’s heads was dark and the lights were arranged with spots in places where light was really needed. The final result was amazing. As an example of creative thinking, some of the light spots were made of buckets.

Lights in SciFest. Credit: Maiju Laukkanen
Zoom
Lights in SciFest. Credit: Maiju Laukkanen

The overview of the Arena can also be seen as a 360 degrees panorama photo. Photographer Rami Saarikorpi took the photo in the evening before the start of SciFest. He also had a workshop in SciFest where he showed how panorama photos are taken in practice. This was a very popular workshop among kids – and among teachers as well

It seems that one can inspire light-related enthusiasm in people easily: Gather people from companies, universities, schools, arts, etc., and work together to create a playground for kids. If it works with kids, it works with everyone. And remember that science can be on stage together with art.

Science meets art on stage in SciFest. Light artist Kari Kola (left) and photonics professor Pasi Vahimaa (right). Credit: Jenna-Maaria Kuronen.
Zoom
Science meets art on stage in SciFest. Light artist Kari Kola (left) and photonics professor Pasi Vahimaa (right). Credit: Jenna-Maaria Kuronen.

More photos about photonics workshops in SciFest here.

About SciFest

SciFest® is a yearly international festival which brings together thousands of schoolkids, high school students, and teachers to discover new experiences and learn about science, technology and the environment. SciFest takes place every year in the month of April in Joensuu, Finland. The festival is free and open to everyone. The main organizer of the event is Joensuu Science Society.

More information of the event on the SciFest website.

About the Institute of Photonics at UEF

The Institute of Photonics combines the photonics research and education in the University of Eastern Finland. It is one of the major photonics research centres in Europe including world-class photonics research laboratories. University of Eastern Finland is a Gold Associate of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies.

More information on the UEF website.

About IYL 2015

The International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies (IYL 2015) is a global initiative adopted by the United Nations (A/RES/68/221) to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.  With UNESCO as lead agency, IYL 2015 programs will promote improved public and political understanding of the central role of light in the modern world while also celebrating noteworthy anniversaries in 2015—from the first studies of optics 1,000 years ago to discoveries in optical communications that power the Internet today.  The IYL Global Secretariat is located at the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP).

The Founding Partners of IYL 2015 are the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Physical Society (APS), the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG), the European Physical Society (EPS), the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the IEEE Photonics Society (IPS), the Institute of Physics (IOP), Light: Science and Applications, the lightsources.org International Network, 1001 Inventions, The Optical Society (OSA) and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). 

Patron Sponsors include Bosca, the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), Royal Philips Lighting, Thorlabs and UL.

Contacts

Pauliina Korhonen
Joensuu Science Society
pauliina.korhonen@tiedeseura.fi

Pasi Vahimaa
Scientific Director
Institute of Photonics at the University of Eastern Finland
pasi.vahimaa@uef.fi

John Dudley
Steering Committee Chair
International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015
john.dudley@univ-fcomte.fr

Joe Niemela
Global Coordinator (IYL Secretariat)
International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015
light2015@ictp.it