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Excited about optics

The University of California Irvine Extension honored Donn Silberman with the Dean’s Outstanding Service Award at its 13th annual Instructor and Advisory Committee Member Appreciation Breakfast in November. The award recognizes an individual who has proved to be an invaluable resource to UC Irvine Extension. Silberman received the award for his contribution as a founding advisory committee member of the Optical Engineering and Optical Instrument Design certificate programs. His efforts have helped UC Irvine Extension recruit high-quality instructors and offer program participants industry-leading courses, the university said.

In December, Silberman, a University of Arizona Honors College alum – he graduated in 1983 with a BS in engineering physics with honors in physics – received that school’s 2012-13 Advocate for Education Award and gave a keynote presentation for winter graduates titled “What Is Light?”

Not one to rest on his laurels, Silberman has embarked on a new crusade aimed at getting kids excited about optics and robotics. In his latest adventure, as he puts it, Silberman has coined a new word – optobotics – for which he is seeking trademark protection, and he has secured a grant from SPIE to prepare kits and “get things going.”

He has already begun getting the word out through a number of local events, including a short demonstration for colleagues at a meeting of the Optical Society of Southern California, and a live optobotics presentation at the UC Irvine Beall Center for Art + Technology Family Day event in November, which he said was well received. In December, he presented a webinar sponsored by the UCI program titled OPTOBOTICS – Precision Motion for the Optics Age: A Look Around the Martian Surface.

Silberman is happy to share his thoughts on how the industry can get involved and improve its chances of finding skilled workers ready to fill job openings as it continues to grow. That’s why he does what he does, he said. “We have to get students excited about optics, and before they can get excited about optics, they have to be introduced to optics in ways that encourage them to think about including optics and photonics as career opportunities.”

Soon, he said, the new optobotics projects will gain momentum as programs are developed and they can show successes in reaching out to students. “We hope others will follow our lead and incorporate themes that get students excited about optics.”


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