Posts Tagged ‘lasers’

Course Catalog: Laser and Photonics Technology

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

laser

In this week’s Episode, ATETV talked with Andy Dawson, a student enrolled in the Laser and Photonics Technology program at Central Carolina Community College.

Photonics is an emerging technology that encompasses a number of exciting components (lasers, optics, LED”s and fiber optics, for example) that are widely used in today’s industries, from telecommunications and manufacturing to nanotechnology, biomedicine and homeland security.

According to the Central Carolina Community College website graduates of the school’s two-year Laser and Photonics Technology program might additionally pursue job opportunities in fiber optic communications, materials processing, and laser surgery facilities, with specific positions focused on product testing, field service, product development or sales.

Where to start?

As Andy Dawson told ATETV, math is an important part of the Laser and Photonics curriculum, with courses in Algebra/Trigonometry, Statistical Quality Control and Physics-Mechanics helping to form the program’s backbone.

But that’s only the beginning. Here’s a glimpse of some of the other areas that are part of the Lasers and Photonics course catalog:

Computers: The Introduction to Computers and Basic PC Literacy classes provide students with the fundamentals of hardware, software, and computer operations, as well as security issues.

Electronics: Beginning with the basics – soldering/desoldering, problem solving and operating test equipment – classes in Electronics cover semiconductor-based devices, Digital Electronics and Troubleshooting techniques.

Lasers and Photonics: With an emphasis on hands-on instruction, the Lasers and Photonics curriculum helps students immerse in the scientific properties of laser beams and optics technologies. Starting with the properties of light and overviews of optical theory and optical equipment, the Lasers and Photonics curriculum builds to cover the principles of Fiber Optics, and to introduce students to a variety of Photonics Applications, including materials processing, bar code scanning, surgical applications, optical data storage and optical computers.

Sound interesting? For more information on Laser and Optics Technology programs at community colleges around the country, check out OP-TEC, The National Center for Optics and Photonics Education.

Biophotonics Merge Medicine and Lasers

Friday, July 30th, 2010
Bio- photo- whatics?  Can this be the career for you?

Bio- photo- whatics? Can this be the career for you?

Last March, we wrote about LaserFest, the year-long celebration of the laser’s 50th birthday. The celebration is still going strong, and so are new applications for lasers.

So, what career opportunities are there for someone studying lasers? According to the Laserfest website , the future is indeed bright for these powerful light sources. Besides powering extremely efficient computer and communications systems and providing alternative energy sources, medical applications for lasers are widespread, and growing. Laserfest notes that within the next five to ten years, doctors may be able to improve cancer diagnoses via lasers that illuminate cellular activity. In addition, lasers are expected to aid in the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease by measuring a protein called beta amyloid (associated with the disease) with a pulsed, blue laser aimed directly at the eye.

Technically known as Biophotonics, this field that merges medicine and lasers is defined as “the study of the interaction of light with biological material — where ‘light’ includes all forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon.” Simply put, biophotonics enable doctors to noninvasively image and analyze living tissue — everything from diagnostics to surgeries (such as Laser Eye Surgery). In fact, according to The Center for Biophotonics, Science and Technology (CBST), Biophotonics is widely regarded as the key science upon which the next generation of clinical tools and biomedical research instruments will be based.

The CBST is a great place to learn more about the field. Created in 2002 as part of a National Science Foundation project and located at the University of California Davis, the CBST is building an extensive network of schools, industrial partners and Biophotonics research centers to help prepare for the field’s rapidly developing advances. Here, you can learn about specific educational programs at community colleges and four-year colleges throughout the U.S., as well as learn more about the science of Biophotonics.

What would a typical Laser and Photonics curriculum look like? Check out the program at Central Carolina Community College, which we heard about in this week’s Episode. The CCCC program, which offers a specialized Biophotonics curriculum track, is designed to use the majority of its instruction time in lab environments to help students put classroom theory into action. And what makes for a successful experience? According to the CCCC, successful Photonics students enjoy problem-solving, working with their hands, and learning how things work. An interest in math and science is also valuable.

Finally, if you’d like to listen to stories about how lasers are being used in medicine and science (told with a British accent), tune in to Naked Scientists Podcasts. There, you’ll find news and interviews about everything from laser “tweezers” being used to pick up bacteria to laser cancer treatments and a laser technique that’s speeding DNA sequencing.

ATETV Episode 43: Collaboration, Conservation and the Cutting Edge

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

This week, we learn how companies look to graduates to meet workforce demands, learn about the latest trends in energy conservation and talk with a student who is returning to school to study laser technology.

In our first segment, we visit Springfield Technical Community College, where Computer Technology students are taking classes side-by-side with professionals from area computer companies.

Says Scott Edwards of Juniper Networks, “The collaboration between Juniper and local colleges [enables students to] access the same information [being accessed by professionals] which helps them prepare for the same types of jobs.”

And as Springfield’s Gordon Snyder notes, “What we’re doing is exposing companies to the community college…We have made good connections with these companies and they realize what great places community colleges are. [In fact, community colleges] are now probably the first place they come when want to hire somebody new.”

While industry is becoming more aware of the programs offered at Springfield Technical College, students, teachers and consumers alike are becoming more aware of the high costs of energy – and ways to conserve – as we learn in our second segment.

As Mike Traen of Certified Energy Raters explains, green building verifications and performance testing for Energy Star compliance and rating is a great movement.

“It’s a way to be environmentally responsible,” says Mike. “It amounts to not using more than you have to, not disposing of more than you have to. It’s a good thing for a home owner because you’re going to save money in the process.” Mike predicts that the field of Energy Efficiency and Compliance will expand and that the need for qualified energy technicians, too, will increase.

And, it’s a similar message in our third segment, which takes us to Central Carolina Community College’s Laser and Photonics Program, where student and former truck driver Andy Dawson is making a change, and embarking on an exciting, fast-paced career.

“I’m loving every minute of the program so far,” says Andy. “I mean any time I get something in my hands and I’m having to do the work on it and being able to break that laser down [and figure out what’s wrong with it and how to best fix it] to get it working correctly [I get excited]” he adds. “For just two years’ investment, you can’t go wrong in a community college program, “ he notes.

ATETV Episode 36: Math & Science = Success

Monday, May 24th, 2010

This week, we learn how a love of math and science can be applied to a challenging career in Laser and Photonics Technologies, talk with a student who is charting a new future in Geographic Information Systems, and hear how one community college is preparing students to meet the growing demand in Alternative Energy Technology.

In our first segment, we visit Central Carolina Community College where students in the Laser and Photonics Technologies program explain why the math skills they gained in high school are so important to their current curriculum.

“We do a lot of math here — trig and trig functions and a lot of algebra,” explains student Katie Renshaw. “I like technology, I think it’s cool and whenever I take placement tests I have good math and science scores, so that was a plus [in choosing to study Lasers and Photonics].”

Adds student Todd Devine, “[I would tell high school students] if you are interested in lasers, focus on your math and science because those are the things that will help you in the laser field. It [involves] a lot of equations and angles and a lot of theorems, so you need to make sure that you remember them and study them.”

Central Carolina Community College’s Gary Beasley agrees. “If you like science and math, then [Laser and Photonics Technologies] is an exciting field to get into. We give students a placement test and if they don’t score high enough to get into the program, they can take courses to increase their knowledge in whatever area [they need] whether it’s a math developmental course or an English developmental course.”

And if you like lasers, the effort will be worth it. “If you’re struggling with math in high school, if you just study hard and work through, it will all pay off,” says Todd. ” [This field is growing] and it’s not going to disappear.”

Another field that offers students a growing selection of career opportunities is in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), as we learn in our second segment, when we talk with Dave Nicholson, a student at Central Piedmont Community College.

“Geospatial technology is taking known location attributes from the real world and putting them on paper and making a map out of them,” Dave explains. The technology is used in a wide variety of applications, and for Dave, his long-time interest in maps has led him to go back to school in search of a new career and a secure future. “When I got out of high school back in the 70s, I ended up going into the Navy.” Since then, Dave explains, he has also worked in commercial electronics, as a radio technician and for a paging company. After being laid off from several jobs, Dave learned about the GIS program at Central Piedmont, and is not only looking to pursue a rapidly growing field, but a field that he thoroughly enjoys.

Finally, in our third segment, we visit Sinclair Community College where a program in Alternative Energy Technologies is preparing students for the explosion of jobs being created in the fields of solar, wind and biodiesel energy.

As employer Mike Traen of Certified Energey Raters, LLC, explains, the country’s growing awareness of the need for responsible energy use has led to tremendous advances in Alternative Energy technologies. “I think that this is important for [everyone] to understand.”

At Sinclair Community College, students are putting their newfound understanding of Alternative Energy to use on their own campus. “Biodiesel fuel has to meet a certain quality standard so that it can be used in equipment without causing damage,” explains Instructor Bob Gilbert. “It became a real educational tool [for us] when our students were able to test the biodieselthey were producing in our college’s own lawn equipment to make sure it was within the required standards.”

And this type of innovative application is beneficial for the students and college alike. As student Senya Oji-Njideka sums up, “I’m glad that Sinclair is so on top of their game.”

Lasers Celebrate Their 50th Birthday

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
Green 532nm 10mW refracted from a 5 carat diamond.-  © Photograph by Marco Nero

Green 532nm 10mW refracted from a 5 carat diamond.- © Photograph by Marco Nero

Lasers Turn 50 and the Celebration Lasts All Year!

There’s no question that laser technology is important to industry and to our workforce. Lasers are widely used throughout medicine and surgery. Lasers are integral to our telecommunications infrastructure. Lasers are helping to create the jobs of the future.

But, let’s face it: Lasers are also fun. As Laser and Photonics Engineering student Todd Devine confessed, “I’ve always liked lasers, ever since I was little.”

If you, too, have always been intrigued by the power and precision of these multi-colored light beams, you’ll want to check out LaserFest, the year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the laser. As their website announces, “From DVD players to eye surgery, the laser is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century — one that has revolutionized the way we live.”

Think you know all about lasers? Take this quick quiz:

Question: What does “laser” stand for?
Answer: Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation

Question: When did lasers first become part of our “everyday” lives?
Answer: In 1974, when the bar code was first used in retail stores

Question: What is the estimated dollar value of lasers to our economy?
Answer: The devices and services that rely on lasers are thought to play a role in more than $3 trillion worth of commerce annually.

And a multiple choice question:
Lasers have recently been used to a) Clean several famous works of art; b) Shoot down mosquitoes in mid-flight; c) Identify a bank robber and analyze rocks on Mars; d) All of the above.

Answer: d) All of the above.

In fact, the reason that lasers are so valuable to our lives isn’t just because of their power. A real selling point of laser technology is the fact that the photons in light beams move with extreme focus and precision, making lasers ideal for sending messages over long distances or for accurately reading the messages contained in DVDs, bar codes, or even biological cells.

So, the next time you pop a copy of “Star Wars” in your DVD player consider this: Without lasers, you wouldn’t be watching that DVD. And without his laser beam, Darth Vader would be powerless.

ATETV Episode 27: The Numbers Add Up

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

This week we begin by exploring Lasers and Photonics Technologies and Wind Energy technology, and end by focusing on the ways that community colleges are providing students with the core math skills they’ll need to succeed in both of these fields –as well as every other area of technology.

In our first segment, we meet Central Carolina Community College student Todd Devine, who is enrolled in the college’s Laser and Photonics Engineering program. “I have always liked lasers, and ever since I was little I was tinkering with things, and it’s just grown from there.” This lifelong interest is now evolving into a promising career path, with laser technology being used in fields as diverse as surgical procedures and music and video technology.

“Every day there is a new application coming out for lasers, so it’s creating a lot of jobs,” notes Central Carolina’s Gary Beasley. “And guess what? There are not enough technicians to support those applications in the medical field or in telecommunications.” But Central Carolina’s program aims to change that, and Todd Devine is proof positive.

“When I graduate, I think I am going to look toward the medical fields that are dealing with lasers, and help mankind in some way,” says Todd. “I want to do something useful for the world.”

Similarly, as we see in our second segment, the students in the Wind Energy program at Wyoming’s Laramie County Community College are also looking at their technology curriculum as important not just for their careers, but also for our environment and our society.

“When my students come to class, people aren’t sleeping,” says Laramie’s Michael Schmidt. “They are very focused on what they are learning. These people are excited.”

The Wind Energy program is designed to prepare technicians to go into the wind industry to repair utility skill wind turbines, large commercial machines with complex control systems that allow them to produce energy efficiently and to maximize capability. The highly skilled students who emerge from the program are versed in all aspects of wind energy technology, from introduction to wind power, to electricity, hydraulics, and all of the basic core skills needed to excel in the field.

And essential to students’ success is a firm foundation in mathematics. “Math and science are very critical,” adds Michael Schmidt. “Mathematics, specifically, apply to the technical part of the program. Our technicians have to have an understanding of how power is produced. They have to have an understanding of power quality because this power is ultimately delivered to a utility, ends up on a grid and is then delivered to the consumer.”

Which brings us to our third segment, which shows us why community colleges are great places for students to get up to speed in algebra, calculus and other core math skills.

“All technology goes back to math,” notes Scott Edwards of Juniper Networks. “The more you know about math, the better you understand it, and the more clear will be the complex topics that you are going to learn in the future.”

And community college programs provide the support and guidance to enable students to tackle the challenges of higher level mathematics. As Laser and Photonics student Todd Devine tells prospective students, “If you are struggling with math in high school right now, [you should know] that if you just study hard and work through it, it will all pay off.”

Adds Andrew Maynard of the Springfield Technical Community College faculty, “The nice thing about community colleges is that if you are not up to speed in math — whether because you’ve been out of school for awhile or because you had trouble with math in high school — we offer remedial classes to help bring you up to the college level, so you don’t fail.”

And, as this week’s episode shows, success in math translates to success in any technology career.

Gary Beasley: Recruiting for the Future

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

As head of the lasers and photonics program at Central Carolina Community College, Gary Beasley spends much of his time recruiting students, speaking at local high schools and putting on laser workshops.

When he meets prospective students, Gary asks them a series of questions to judge whether they would be a good fit for the program: “Are you interested in science? Technology? Learning just how things work? Do you enjoy problem solving – any type of problem solving? Do you enjoy helping people with problems? How do you feel about math? Do you like it? Are you comfortable with it?”

If you answered yes to these questions, you might be exactly the type of student that Gary – and other ATE program heads – are looking for. Students like the ones in these stories Gary shared with us:

“One of my students worked his way through the program at a chicken &
barbeque restaurant that I frequently visited,” he recounts. “During his second year, he landed a job as a technician, making $40,000, working second shift while he finished school. Upon graduation, he was lured to another company at $50,000.”

Another former student has his name on two patents for optical systems, just four years after graduating!

Then there is the mother and daughter who both went through the program. Originally, the mother attended a laser workshop with her youngest daughter and was so impressed that she enrolled for herself. Her oldest daughter, an accounting major, was so taken with her mother’s success that she switched over, too. Now both women work at a major laser manufacturer and love their careers.

With success stories like these, it’s no wonder that enrollment in the program is up the past couple of years!

If you are considering lasers and photonics as a career path, Gary recommends a two-year associate degree over a four-year degree. In addition to its lower cost and hands-on approach, Gary sees the two-year program as the best route to further education. “You will be able to get a high-paying, high-tech job in two years and can continue your education while making high pay,” he says. “And more than likely, the company you work for will cover the majority of your continued education toward higher degrees.”

Like many ATE programs, CCCC’s laser and photonics program is a gateway to a lucrative career and to further studies in the field. With advantages like that, it’s a program that practically sells itself.