PHABLABS 4.0: a new ECOP project that adds the power of photonics to Fab Labs

PHABLABS 4.0 aims to inspire young minds, future generations of technicians, engineers and entrepreneurs by making photonics accessible through the ecosystem of Fab Labs in Europe. For this European project, a Photonics Public Private Partnership supported by Photonics21 and Horizon2020, 11 partners and institutes in photonics join forces with 14 pilot Fab Labs. Most of the Photonics partners are members of ECOP (European Centres for Outreach in Photonics). These include VUB, ICFO, NUI and FBH/MBI, where VUB is the ccordinator of this H2020 project and ICFO leads one of the workpackages.

The existing European eco-system of Fab Labs offers the ideal makers platform where young minds and entrepreneurs can effectively experiment with science, tools and the newest technology.  Integrating photonics and its many applications in Fab Labs and Makers Spaces, allows young people to put seemingly unattainable ideas into practice with laser equipment, LED, lenses and optical fiber up to programmable electronic chips in a way that is fun and inspiring.  PHABLABS 4.0. can spark ideas, pave the road to innovative concepts and might subsequently be a starting point for a bright future as a technician, engineer or researcher.

The ambitious roadmap of PHABLABS 4.0 encompasses the development of a suite of 33 Photonics Workshops, 11 Photonics Challenger projects and Photonics Toolkits customized for 3 specific user groups: young minds (10-14 y), students (15-18 y) and young professionals or technicians (+18 years).

Photonics Workshops cover in total 11 different topics that help to understand the wide variety of applications in photonics. Through the tailored modules for each target group, participants will work towards a specific objective or result.

Photonics Challenger Projects start from a well-defined challenge that needs research and creativity to design. Participants will elaborate and test new ideas with a link to other Key Enabling Technologies (KET). A final Photonics Challenger Project Contest raises the bar to develop game-changing projects.

Photonics Toolkits for Workshops or Challenger Projects are low-cost boxes that provide the Fab Labs with a core set of photonics components to facilitate ongoing innovation and stimulate curiosity. Tools, such as optical fibers, optical design software and 3D printer with transparent material, that are not yet available in Fab Labs will be provided.

Each module 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 nurture the 21st Century skills of the participants.

2nd edition of the Young Photonic Congress in Barcelona encourages secondary school students to present light related research studies

On Friday 30 September, the ICFO was filled with posters with a slightly different focus than those that are normally on display in poster sessions. These posters were the work of high school students from around Catalonia who participated in the 2nd Young Photonics Congress, presenting light related research projects from the 2015-2016 school year. In addition to the creation of the research poster, these young scientists were also prepared to explain their posters in English to members of the ICFO community.

The Young Photonic Congress aims to bring together young scientists for their first scientific conference while introducing them to the scientific community. After a warm welcome from Dr. Silvia Carrasco, head of ICFO KTT unit, and Prof. Ignacio Cirac, director of the Theoretical Division of Max Plack Quantum Optics Institute, ICFOnians offered updates on the latest topics of research, as in real scientific meetings. However, the core of the congress was the poster session, where the students were in the spotlight, presenting their own work and discussing their results with their peers and ICFOnians.

This congress was organized in the framework of the Fundació Catalunya – La Pedrera • Ignacio Cirac Program Chair. This chair aims to promote world-class research, outreach and dissemination in the targeted area of quantum information science and technology, as well as to promote frontier research at large.