University to Host Spooktacular Optics, Safe Trick or TreatOctober 29, 2014

It might look the same from the outside, but one would be excused for thinking the interior of the Rockhurst University Community Center has been turned into a haunted house overnight.

This week the University will host two events to coincide with Halloween on Friday. From 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, the public is invited to a supernatural science fair as students present their final projects at Spooktacular Optics. The newest edition of the physics department’s biennial “haunted lab” exhibit, the 12 projects featured in Spooktacular Optics highlight classroom concepts like reflection, refraction and dispersion to create haunted house-style illusions, including:

  • Man in the Mirror: Visitors will see their own image superimposed on someone else’s and can find a creepy message that only shows up in certain light.
  • Alice in Optic Land: An Alice in Wonderland-style journey through a hall of distorting, fun-house mirrors.
  • Cloaking Device: Bodies disappear, leaving only a head, in this illusion.
  • Graveyard of Lost Souls:  Armed with only a mirror, guests will navigate and escape a laser prison.

Other projects will create illusions like colored shadows, growing monster heads and disappearing bodies.

Though they’re definitely entertaining, the exhibit is also meant to be educational, according to Nancy Donaldson, Ph.D., chair of the physics department. Each group, in addition to designing and building their creation, also supply a lab manual explaining the illusion.

“I like to have a fun way for them to show me that they understand the basics of physics, and optics just lends itself perfectly to that,” Donaldson said. “Students will come to learn, but we also hope that faculty and staff, even members of the public, come by to see the displays, too.”

The next day, the Community Center will host another longstanding Rockhurst Halloween tradition, the Safe Trick or Treat. From 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, children 12 and younger with adult supervision from the community are invited as the Community Center is transformed into a haunted house, courtesy Rockhurst student volunteers, with games, activities and treats. Alicia Douglas, director of community relations and outreach, said the event has drawn close to 500 children in the past and has been a safe place for area trick-or-treaters for more than 20 years.

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