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Letters

Photonics Spectra
May 2013
The importance of hands-on learning

In the January 2013 “Workforce of Tomorrow” column (p. 87), distance learning is suggested to augment education. But in some fields, nothing replaces in-the-trenches association with qualified practitioners: Webcasts can’t do the job of creating on-site experience in practical ways to turn two-dimensional drawings and plans into acceptable 3-D shelter for humans, animals and plants. Learning how to play bridge is possible with the Internet, but physical presence on location is needed to realize how to get a construction job done right the first time.

As Donn Silberman said in the January column, those with a background in engineering, math or physics might find optics fascinating. The same is true of lighting: From commercial/retail to hazardous/confined spaces, the variety of lighting specialties could appeal to everyone.

I was invited to start the Academy of Building Conservation with the Darby (Pa.) Historical Commission; I was also asked by the Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia to write about encouraging young people to become lighting engineers. Unfortunately, distance learning would not help to teach them the foundational principles of this very hands-on field.

Business investment in practical education is a wise decision. The apprentice-training idea is not new or unusual; it has been going on since the Middle Ages. Rolls-Royce regularly pays for 900 apprentices to ensure a permanent competent workforce. This action is good for the company, its clients, workers and the economy. Germany has been supporting this concept for years.

Gersil N. Kay, IESNA, AIA/HRC
Building Conservation International
and Conservation Lighting Int’l. Ltd.


Erratum

The sentence beginning on p. 44 and continuing to p. 45 in Hank Hogan’s January 2013 article, “Photonics Strengthens Defense – and Offense,” should have said, “A commercial-grade 1550-nm laser overdriven by a modulator can generate bands carrying about 10 Gb/s of data.”


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