Minneapolis business owner Colette DeHarpporte has launched a new company, LASER Classroom. LASER Classroom sources, develops and distributes products and curricula around light, lasers, optics and photonics for the K-12 STEM classroom.

“It started with a new product, LASER Blox, and quickly became a much bigger idea,” DeHarpporte says. Frustrated by the expense and lack of choice in educational lasers, DeHarpporte created a versatile, high-quality, affordable laser system specifically for teaching and learning in the pre-college classroom. Designed with the input of instructors, LASER Blox are magnetic, stackable, battery-operated, and hands-free, making them highly user-friendly and ideal for classroom demonstrations and activities.

Soon, though, DeHarpporte realized that teachers needed more than products. They needed classroom support as science education shifts away from disciplinary, lecture-based teaching towards cross-disciplinary, hands-on teaching and learning. “A lot of teaching theory is grounded in excellent research,” DeHarpporte says. “But teachers can find it challenging to put that theory into practice in the classroom.” That’s when she expanded LASER Classroom’s vision to an educational mission, aimed at creating both products and curricula.

To write the curriculum, DeHarpporte connected with author and professor Yvonne Ng, founder of Engineer’s Playground and Engineering Education Specialist in the National Center for STEM Elementary Education at St. Catherine University. Together, Ng and LASER Classroom plan ready-to-implement interactive Learning Modules to help instructors teach STEM through the study of photonics. Each Learning Module centers around a specific theme—such as laser safety—and offers classroom activities, demos, and a capstone project to explore elements of photonics within that theme. The modules also include historical contexts to help integrate STEM with other subjects.

Photonics is the branch of science and technology that uses light and its fundamental unit, the photon, to solve problems and create solutions in fields as varied as medicine, defense, aerospace research, and telecommunications. Photonics is inherently interdisciplinary and puts STEM concepts, practices, and ideas into an exciting and meaningful context. By providing both high-quality laser products and ready-to-implement curriculum materials, LASER Classroom aims to bring photonics to the K-12 classroom and bring STEM to light—literally.

LASER Blox and other educational products related to lasers, light, optics and photonics are available now at the LASER Classroom website. The first of the Learning Module, “Laser Safety,” is also available. Three more Learning Modules, along with materials kits, are planned for release in December 2012.

LASER Classroom

LASER Classroom is a Minneapolis-based company created to inspire and support STEM teaching and learning about light, lasers, and photonics across the curriculum. LASER Classroom provides affordable, engaging, and safe supplies and equipment as well as integrated STEM curriculum, professional development, and lots of free resources—all to help teachers and students bring STEM to light.