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NSF Awards Photonic Education Grant to IRSC

Photonics.com
May 2017
FORT PIERCE, Fla., May 15, 2017 — The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $2.6 million Advanced Technology Education (ATE) grant to Indian River State College (IRSC) to expand the operations of LASER-TEC, a regional center increasing the number of skilled laser and fiber optics (LFO) technicians.

Based in Fort Pierce, Fla., LASER-TEC was established in 2013 with a $2.9 million NSF grant, and since its inception has partnered with 21 colleges and universities and 147 companies to strengthen training to meet industry demand.

Over 450 students annually have taken laser and fiber optics courses at participating colleges. Funded over the next four-years by the new NSF grant, LASER-TEC plans to expand the network to include more educational institutions and companies from different sectors of the economy eager to employ the specialized technicians. The U.S. Department of Labor projects the demand for LFO technicians at almost six times the supply.

“There is an urgent need to continue to ramp up the production of laser and fiber optics technicians to satisfy the high demand, maintain our world leadership and create high-paying jobs,” said Edwin Massey, president of IRSC. “LASER-TEC has earned a national reputation as a model of best practices. With this new grant, the center will be able to expand programs throughout the Southeast to create a pipeline of highly skilled technicians.”

Enabling students to earn an Associate in Science degree in lasers and fiber optics in two years, a trio of LASER-TEC schools, IRSC, Central Carolina Community College in North Carolina and Tri-County Technical College in South Carolina, graduated 98 students in 2016 with the niche specialization in lasers and fiber optics.

LASER-TEC has created educational modules for high-intensity LED manufacturing, semiconductor processing of photonic devices, solid-state crystal growth and solid-state, high-power pulsed laser design and construction. Plans call for new modules in spectroscopy, LED lighting and illumination design.

Strong collaboration has ensured training links to industry, including partnerships with Corning Fiber Optical Systems, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman and Harris Corporation.

“The continuing support and funding from NSF is a testament to the leadership role LASER-TEC plays in the preparation of highly skilled technicians needed by the most advanced technology companies as they move deeper into the 21st century,” said Chrys Panayiotou, principal investigator of LASER-TEC and chair of IRSC’s electronics engineering technology department.

BusinessNational Science FoundationLASER-TECAdvanced Technology EducationfundingawardsIndian River State CollegeAmericaslasers

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