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Task Force to Revamp Photonics Education

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Anne Fischer Lent

Three organizations have joined forces to develop the second level of photonics standards and curriculum modules. The results of their efforts are scheduled for publication in 2003 as "Science and Technological Education in Photonics (Step II)." The Center for Occupation Research and Development -- better known as CORD -- along with SPIE and the Optical Society of America, is updating the Step I standards, first implemented in 1995. Funded by grants from the National Science Foundation's Advanced Technological Education Program, the collaborators' aim is to revise and expand skill standards and curriculum.

Co-principal investigator Darrell Hull said that, in the seven years since Step I, a lot has happened in this emerging technology area. The first task, he said, is to come out with a revised edition. Next, the group plans to create clustered curriculum frameworks that are aimed at two-year technical colleges. In addition, it is working toward connecting high schools with community colleges through a program called Tech Prep.

The original plan was to create the standards and curriculum in three segments, culminating in a total of eight textbooks that would include 10 modules each. The National Science Foundation has supported six modules, and the plan, Hull said, is to have businesses in the industry develop individual modules.

"A company that's involved with interferometry, for example, could pay about $35,000 for a module, and its name would be all over it. It's a great way for companies to be involved, from a technology perspective, in assisting us in developing materials," he said.

Companies could also benefit by having prospective employees trained directly in their industry.

Finding photonics technicians who are adequately prepared in specific areas is a crucial concern right now, according to a survey that was recently conducted by CORD. The organization estimates that it will be necessary to generate 6460 photonics technicians per year over the next five years to keep up with the demand.

By working with high schools and two-year colleges, the Step II task force expects to supply highly trained technicians to the US photonics industry.

Photonics Spectra
Nov 2002
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