School of Rhetoric

Laser Optics Lab


The Laser Optics Lab at Regents School of Austin is a college-grade optics laboratory incorporating state-of-the-art lasers, optical components, electronics, and test equipment. The Laser Optics Lab opened in 2009 and incorporates facilities typically found only at universities and research laboratories.

Where is the Lab Located?

The Laser Optics Lab is located in the School of Rhetoric Building. The room houses a special floor which adds stability to the laser optics table by lessening vibrations

What Does the Lab Do?

Real, Hands-On Project Learning

One of the interesting aspects of the Laser Optics Lab is that students encounter a wide variety of learning opportunities associated with the use of tools, hardware, and the challenges of real laboratory research. As in a real research lab, students build their own apparatus, and when it doesn’t work properly, the students themselves must learn how to troubleshoot. In the Regents Laser Optics Lab, students learn about different types of optical hardware, types and sizes of screw threads, types of tools, how to solder, how to search for parts in industrial catalogs, how to troubleshoot computers, and on and on. One year, students even learned how to sweat copper tubing with a propane torch! Skills with software, hardware, and tools are very valuable assets for just about anyone.

Learning curves are often steep for both students and teacher! Questions students ask can literally become multi-year projects as we learn together. Sometimes our projects require expert help in areas such as software coding, imaging techniques, or mixing chemicals. In real research labs, projects extend over long periods of time and student researchers must develop great patience. Contending with hardware failures, delays, and unforeseen difficulties are unavoidable aspects of real laboratory work that students don’t normally encounter in conventional high-school laboratory courses. In the Laser Optics Lab, these events are part of our daily work.

Who Uses the Lab?

List of 1 items.

  • School of Rhetoric Students

    All students in the School of Rhetoric are eligible to participate in courses hosted in the Laser Optics Lab. Students participate in the Laser Optics Lab by taking one of two separate elective courses in the high school, each of which meets twice per week for the entire year. Students new to the Laser Optics Lab (regardless of the grade they are in) sign up for the Introductory Laser Optics course. This course follows a well-developed curriculum that alternates between theory in physics and hands-on projects.

    After completing the introductory course, students are eligible to participate in the advanced projects course, Laser Optics. Students usually begin their project work by working in a team to learn how to make holograms. After a tour through holograms, students explore projects of their choice, either as individuals or in groups.


As Lab Director, I have attended training which has qualified me as a certified Laser Safety Officer by the Laser Institute of America. Protocols, controls and safety apparatus are in place to assure that everything is done in the lab according to standard, safe laboratory practices. All students who want to work in the lab will learn how do so safely.

For more information, contact John Mays, Lab Director.


Participation in the Laser Optics Society (LOS) is open to all School of Rhetoric Students. Students in the LOS work on projects in the Laser Optics Lab (LOL) and attend lectures on optics to complement their work in the LOL. The LOL is open for student work on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-8:30 pm and Fridays 3-5 pm.