Optics in Africa! An ALOP update

In Spring 2013 Comar donated over 100kg of optics to ALOP (Active Learning in Optics and Photonics), a UNESCO initiative to improve the quality of teaching in developing countries.  (Click here to read the news article). The distribution of the optics was arranged by Dr Mark Johnson, who is voluntarily supporting the program, and his account is below:

”We shipped out most of your optics donation, via Mombasa and Kampala, to the Institute of Physics centre in Bukinda, Uganda, and I went out in May.  I had previously gone through the parts and made up kits to build an astronomical telescope, simple microscope, prism spectrometer and so on. Combined with a lot of electronic and constructional bits and pieces that I took out in hand-baggage (Kenya Airways has a 46kg allowance!) we were able to do some nice hands-on work with the teachers of Kabale province.

“The most satisfying part was distributing kits, and seeing about 70 teachers assemble telescopes from the beautiful achromats.  Almost none of the teachers, let alone their students, had ever touched a simple lens or looked through a telescope.

“With battery driven green LEDs and the lenses we set up permanent demonstrations in the Bukinda centre for basic imaging experiments, for use by visitors and by the students of the seminary. Everyone also received a very weak curvature lens and pieces of dark neutral density filter used as a black mirror, perfect for ‘instant success’ demonstrations of Newton's rings interference. Coloured glass interference filters were perfect for viewing through prism and DVD spectrometers that we all built.

“A further large collection of lenses has been sent to the IOP coordinator for South Sudan, but the volatile situation there has delayed its deployment; I am still hopeful it will reach there eventually.

“I still have a few parts to distribute, to cover special requests and requests from other IOP for Africa sites.

“Thank you again so much for the fabulous collection of optics.  I am sure it will make a big difference in an area of very limited technical infrastructure.  There are technical jobs and opportunities out there, so even a few students fired up to go that route would be a good help.”