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Fiber Optic Resources For STEM Teachers

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Fiber Optics Lesson Plan #1 For STEM Teachers

Fiber optics is the way the world communicates, but how it works is a mystery to most everyone. The Fiber Optic Association has created these simple lessons for teachers to show their students how fiber optics connects the world - and them to the Internet - and how fiber communicates with light. These experiments have been used with students from Kindergarten to High School, so don't hesitate to show them to your students.

It's easy to demonstrate how fiber works - you can do it with a sample of plastic fiber (available free from FOA) and a laser pointer like the photo below and shown in the YouTube video "Fiber Optics For Teachers - An Introduction."

how fiber optics works

Free Demo Kits
FOA has samples of this kind of fiber that we will send to teachers at schools in the US or you can find it at science distributors or on Amazon. Teachers in the US and Canada can request a sample by sending an email to the FOA at <> with your name, the school where you teach and a mailing address.

What Do You Need For The Demo?
Besides the FOA plastic optical fiber (POF) sample, all you need is a laser pointer.
The best laser pointer for this kind of demo is the green laser version shown below which we purchased from Amazon for about $20, but any laser pointer will work.

There are several things you can do to make the demo better.

  • Cut the end of the fiber carefully - a razor blade works best - and try to make the cut perpendicular to the length of the fiber for best light coupling.
  • Work in the lowest light you can - shut off the room lights and pull the shades.
  • Place the fiber inside the output hole of the laser pointer and move it around until you get the best light coupling. You can also put some tape on the fiber to enlarge it so it fits more snugly into the center of the output of the laser pointer.
  • The whole length of POF will light up - the light you see is the loss of light in the fiber. Glass fiber has much less loss - so little loss that a signal goes tens or even hundreds of miles.
  • Once you have the light visible through the fiber, have someone put a bend in the end to show how it lights up as light is lost in the bend.
  • Turn the laser pointer on and off to send a signal. You can use "Morse Code" to send actual messages.

Now you can watch the video
"Fiber Optics For Teachers - An Introduction." and duplicate the demo.

Another demonstration you can do uses a larger plastic rod. It shows how the light is trapped in the fiber and transmitted through it. This uses a large plastic rod but the principle is the same as the smaller fiber.

how fiber works

Here are more details on this and other demonstrations you can do in class or help your students with science projects.

More Classroom Curriculum Materials, Videos And Demos Or Labs
FOA creates lots of curriculum materials for our hundreds of schools around the world and much of it is appropriate for introducing students to fiber optics.

The place to begin is the FOA YouTube video "Fiber Optics For Teachers - An Introduction." It shows some demos you can do in the classroom and offers a sample of the plastic optical fiber for teachers.

There are 3 videos in the FOA "Fiber Optics Live" series that show how fiber works using large (30mm) acrylic rods and a laser pointer:

How Light Travels In A Fiber  
Fiber Attenuation  
Connection Loss  

FOA has a video lecture series on YouTube with over 40 lectures and the first one is a good introduction on how fiber is used in communications: FOA Lecture 1: Fiber Optics & Communications 

FOA has a video about all the places where fiber is used - it's called "Where Are The Jobs In Fiber Optics" and it not only shows you where fiber is used but where job opportunities are for those interested in working in this field. Students who are interested in fiber optics as a career should watch the FOA video "Careers in Fiber Optics."

Here are links to all the FOA YouTube videos.

PowerPoint Presentation On Fiber Optics For Teachers
Here is a short PowerPoint presentation you can give to your classes yourself. It is aimed at introducing fiber optic technology to science or career education students and showing what career opportunities exist in the field. 
High School Fiber Optic PowerPoint
You can download this short introduction to fiber optics appropriate for any middle or high school class studying communications or general science. Download it here (PPT, 3MB).

Fiber Optic Science Project
FOA Fiber Optic Science Project - created by a middle school student with the FOA's help, this project can be duplicated and expanded by science students for a class project or a science fair project.
Advanced Fiber Optic Course Labs
Here is a Lab Manual for a college or advanced high school program. It was developed by Professor Elias Awad of the FOA under a NSF grant. You can download it as a MS Word DOC file or a Adobe Acrobat PDF file.
Other Resources From FOA
What else does the FOA offer for teachers?

FOA Textbooks: FOA has a dozen textbooks on fiber optics we publish, including one on basic fiber optics available in 4 languages - English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Here is a list of FOA textbooks.

Plus we have Lennie Lightwave's Guide to Fiber Optics (online), also available in paperback for $9.95

FOA Online Guide covers everything from the basics to advanced technology on the FOA website. It's about 1000 pages of technical information with it's own Google Search engine to help you find things.

FOA has an Affiliate Program where we share educational materials with teachers who want to teach classroom and lab sessions on fiber optics as part of an IT or Telecom program. More information on the FOA Affiliate Program is here.

Teachers at FOA-approved schools can offer the FOA CFOT certification. Want to know more?
If you want to offer FOA certification in your program, FOA offers "Train The Trainer and Instructor Certification" Program. Become a certified fiber optic instructor and take home a complete training program.
Looking For Fiber Optic Training? You can find a list of FOA approved schools that offer CFOT certification here on the list of FOA approved schools .

Need help setting up a demo or teaching a less on fiber optics? Want more information?
Contact the FOA: or 760-451-3655


(c) 1997-20, The Fiber Optic Association, Inc.