This paper describes a simple and inexpensive apparatus for measuring the light-induced shape change of a material, which can be implemented in a high school or undergraduate laboratory. The key components of the apparatus are a laser pointer to actuate the material, a force sensor from an inexpensive jeweler's balance to measure the response, an Arduino for data acquisition, and a means for mechanically mounting the setup. The apparatus described here was used by high school students and teachers in a summer program to characterize liquid crystal elastomer samples. The theory of photomechanical response is used to interpret the gathered data, from which material parameters related to this theory are determined.

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