Photonics, the science of light enabled by the invention of lasers and optical fibers, is advancing rapidly and growing in importance for the US and global economy. Photonics applications are pervasive in our society and are pertinent to engineered systems like smart phones, computers, medical devices, defense technologies, and many others. Photonics technology plays a key role in national security, health care, manufacturing, information technology, and energy. A highly skilled workforce is needed to support the growth of the industry and new technologies. Evidence suggests that a gap continues to exist between the number of well-prepared photonics technicians needed by industry and the number of graduates of photonics programs in Michigan, the Midwest region, and across the United States. This gap persists despite these jobs being in high demand and offering high wages. This ATE project will increase the number of photonics technicians in Michigan by expanding the two-year photonics program introduced four years ago at Baker College to two new campuses - Auburn Hills and Jackson. The program curriculum will be enhanced by the addition of new course modules that will focus on photonics applications in emerging areas such as autonomous driving, integrated photonics, and high power lasers in manufacturing.
The project will bring together diverse organizations and stakeholders from photonics companies, relevant NSF ATE Centers, and educational institutions from K-12 to the university level. Such partnerships will help: (1) to enhance the photonics program and curriculum, (2) to broaden outreach efforts, (3) to share new developments in the field through an annual photonics symposium at Baker College, and (4) to provide internships and employment opportunities to program graduates. As a way to strengthen the pipeline of incoming students, photonics as a field will be integrated in Career and Technical Education programs offered in the state of Michigan, and pathways from high school to two-year colleges to four-year university degrees will be established in order to showcase multiple career opportunities for students. Further, faculty will be provided opportunities to advance their knowledge of photonics through professional development workshops. Project results will be disseminated in various settings and support will be available for other colleges to add courses and programs in this growing advanced technology field.
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