Web-based photonics simulator for secondary school students

Sam Campbell, Kali Madden, Adam Strickland, Robert Williams, Nemanja Jovanovic, Benjamin F. Johnston, Judith M. Dawes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution

1 Citation (Scopus)


In the "real world", Photonics is somewhat invisible to those who rely upon it worldwide. We would like students to connect their everyday experiences of communications with the underlying ideas in Photonics. To do this, we have developed the Photonics Simulator to illustrate to high school students how text or information is coded into binary optical signals which are relayed through photonic communications networks from sender to receiver. Using our simulator, students construct a virtual network, and then test it by sending messages. The messages are coded using ASCII binary code as digital signals in data packets with address headers, which need to be switched, combined, amplified, or delayed to get to their designated address. The students must manage their power budget, correctly target each message address, and avoid collisions of data packets to send their messages uncorrupted and error-free. We tested an early version of the simulator with five Year 9 and 10 classes. The students provided many constructive comments and their feedback was used to improve the graphical interface of the simulator. We subsequently tested the simulator with 80 Year 9 students in short workshops. Overall we had a very positive response-it was more fun than a normal class, and interactivity helped students retain information. Students enjoy the visual aspects-they see how messages are delivered, and learn the function of each network component by experiment. Tests of the simulator at the Macquarie Siemens Science Experience were also encouraging, with one student even sneaking back to class to complete his challenges!

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication11th Education and Training in Optics and Photonics Conference
EditorsAlan Shore, Deb Kane
Place of PublicationSt. Asaph, North Wales
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Event11th Education and Training in Optics and PhotonicsConference, SPIE -
Duration: 5 Jun 20095 Jun 2009


Conference11th Education and Training in Optics and PhotonicsConference, SPIE


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