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  • Michigan Powers Up Photonics Program
Aug 2013
FLINT, Mich., Aug. 13, 2013 — Michigan’s first photonics and laser technology associate degree program will launch Sept. 30 at Baker College of Flint under a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The grant, part of the NSF Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, supports efforts to improve the knowledge and skills of technicians who work in high-technology fields.

Baker College of Flint is the first Michigan school and one of a handful of colleges across the nation to offer a program that prepares students for photonics technician positions. Courtesy of OP-TEC.

The photonics program will use the $199,757 funding over three years to create specialty courses based on industry input, and to recruit students, including those in high school and underrepresented minority groups and veterans. Short-term training courses will be available to adults already working in the field and to those who have been displaced from their jobs or who want to change careers.

The grant enables Baker College to obtain additional lab equipment and to accommodate larger classes in the lab. Dr. Anca Sala, engineering and computer technology dean, has already acquired approximately $60,000 worth of industry-grade lab equipment.

“This is the forefront of a new technology that has the power to impact many industries and help diversify Michigan’s economy,” said Sala. “Photonics is a growing, high-tech, high-demand field. We’ve listened to many of the 50-plus companies in southeast Michigan that work in the areas of photonics and lasers. Their expressed need for trained technicians is loud and clear. Graduates of our program will be well positioned for successful careers in Michigan or anywhere in the nation.”

Approximately 30 US colleges offer photonics instruction, according to the National Center for Optics and Photonics Education (OP-TEC); they graduate an estimated 250 to 300 technicians annually. But that only meets about one-third of the industry’s projected annual need through 2017.

OP-TEC is named in the NSF grant abstract as a collaborator with Indian Hills Community College of Ottumwa, Iowa, in creating the academic and outreach programs for photonics. The center is working with more than 30 two-year colleges throughout the nation to improve the quality and enrollment numbers for their photonics technician education AAS programs. OP-TEC is also assisting more than 40 colleges, including Baker College of Flint, in developing new photonics programs.

OP-TEC recently received renewed funding from the NSF’s ATE program to continue its curriculum development and its support for institutional reform of photonics, optics and laser programs (See: OP-TEC Receives NSF Funding for Photonics Education).

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