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Building a Workforce Excited About Light

Photonics Spectra
Apr 2013

As business leaders, educators and politicians around the world continue to debate how best to fill jobs with well-trained engineers to stay competitive, one widespread effort – encouraging STEM education – may not be delivering the desired results.

While the photonics industry in the US, the EU and elsewhere works to define itself and the considerable global business that has grown up around lasers and other light-based technologies, many also are taking matters into their own hands to build education opportunities aimed at ensuring an adequate labor pool.

European Photonics Industry Consortum Director General Carlos Lee embarked last month on a mission to get 12- to 15-year-old students excited about photonics by distributing kits to interested teachers. His ambitious plan includes tracking the students who use the kits in school as they advance toward eventual employment.

“There is only one objective, and that is to excite children to take on a STEM career direction so that companies in Europe have access to the talent they need to remain competitive,” Lee says in this month’s Workforce of Tomorrow column, found on page 67.

We introduced the regular column in Photonics Spectra late last year to share stories of programs such as EPIC’s, which are designed to expand the teaching of optics and photonics – to make it easier for students to find classes, to make it more exciting to study, and to introduce the study of light-based technologies to ever-younger students.

Educating tomorrow’s photonics workforce may seem like an uphill battle, but it is worth fighting. I invite you to tell us your story.

Fighting smarter

“The army constantly seeks to improve the resolution and capability of sensors. At the same time, the goal is also to make systems less expensive, bulky, heavy and power-hungry,” reports contributing editor Hank Hogan in our cover story. Read about the many innovations coming online to answer those needs, including enhancements to IR imaging at all wavelengths, in the article, “With Infrared, Military Owns More Than the Night,” beginning on page 38.

Also in this issue, science writer Valerie C. Coffey brings us up to speed on advances in standoff detection. Among the latest techniques being explored are differential phase-contrast x-ray imaging and lidar UV laser-induced fluorescence biodetection. Read the article, “Advances in Standoff Detection Make the World Safer.”

Contributing editor Marie Freebody covers the ins and outs of compliance in her feature, “ITAR: Keeping the US Safe or a Global Trade Headache?

Rounding out the issue are three nondefense-related features: “Software Unites Vision and Robotics,” by National Instruments’ Carlton Heard; “Coupled Waveguide Technology Enables Multiple Imaging Advances,” by Kirat Singh of APNI Technology and Alan Streater of Boulder Optical Design Inc.; and “Hybrid LEDs Pave Way to New Lighting Applications,” by Mauro Mosca, Fulvio Caruso, Leandro Zambito, Roberto Macaluso and Claudio Cali of the University of Palermo, and Eric Feltin of Novagan.

Enjoy the issue.


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