Posts Tagged ‘lasers and photonics’

The ABC’s of Photonics Technician Jobs

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

In 2009, ATE’s National Center for Optics and Photonics Education conducted a survey which found that to keep up with industry demand, U.S. employers will need to add approximately 1,200 new photonics technicians each year through 2014. Photonics is “the technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon.” The demand for technicians trained in its applications is not surprising — it turns out there’s hardly an industry in existence that doesn’t require workers with this expertise. From Agriculture to Engineering, from Environmental Technology to Homeland Security, as well as Manufacturing, Medicine and Transportation, there’s a growing need for photonics technicians. (See full list below.)

We turned to the National Photonics Skill Standards for Technicians to learn about a few of these wide-ranging career opportunities and to better understand what the jobs entail. (With so many industries to choose from, we decided to start at the beginning of the alphabet.)

A is for Aerospace. Photonics technicians are critically important to the aerospace and national defense industries. Why? Because unlike using conventional electronic energy, the photonics devices must be resistant to electromagnetic interference. In this industry, light energy is specifically used in infrared systems and image processing. Technicians work with engineers and scientists to construct, test, operate and maintain systems for all kinds of spacecraft and national defense control systems. Specific job responsibilities might include operating, installing, calibrating, troubleshooting and repairing equipment.

On a typical day, a photonics technician in the aerospace industry might find himself or herself collecting and recording data, operating test equipment, performing lab tests, developing tests to ensure quality control, modifying procedures to solve specific problems, or laying out experimental circuits to test scientific theories.

B is for Biomedicine. Biomedical optics and medical imaging are key components of the health care industry, and photonics technicians play key roles in their operations.

According to the Photonics Skill Standards, photonics technicians in medicine work in hospitals and research facilities to install, inspect, maintain and repair complex equipment and instruments used in medical diagnosis and treatment. Equipment might specifically include electronic devices, optical components, diagnostic scanners, ultrasound equipment, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machines and lasers used in surgery.

Day-to-day responsibilities could include inspecting and testing equipment to make sure it complies with performance and safety standards. If you go into Biomedicine, you might also find yourself handling equipment maintenance to head off problems and prevent small problems from becoming serious issues. Technicians also might find themselves dissembling equipment to locate malfunctioning components, replacing defective parts, and then reassembling the equipment. Once those tasks are complete, you might also be responsible for adjusting and calibrating the equipment to make sure it’s operating according to manufacturer specifications. Keeping careful records of machine repairs and maintenance checks is another essential component of the job.

C is for Communication (including fiber optics, transmitters and sensors). If you’re a photonics technician who chooses a career in the Communication field, you are likely to wind up working for a company that uses optical fiber capable of carrying telephone voice services across local regional and nationwide networks. Which companies, you ask? It could be any corporation, bank, university or other large entity that depends on private networks to transmit digital data. You might also wind up working for a cable television or community antenna television (CATV) company, both of which use optical fiber systems to transmit signals to subscribers via video. On any given day, you might work with sophisticated electronic test equipment as well as fusion splicers, optical power meters and laser sources and detectors.

Still curious about the rest of the alphabet? Here are some more industries where photonics applications — and photonics technicians — are integral to business.

Agriculture – Uses satellite remote sensing to detect large-scale crop effects, scanning technology and infrared imaging to monitor food production and quality, and sensor systems for planting and irrigation.

Construction – Includes scanning site topography, laser bar-code readers to inventory materials, laser distance measuring and alignment, and three-dimensional analysis to track the progress of construction.

Engineering, microtechnology, and nanotechnology
– Uses lasers in the manufacture of electrical devices, motors, engines, semiconductor chips, circuits, and computers; via photolithography, photonics is central to production.

Environmental technology – Uses ultraviolet Doppler optical absorption spectroscopy (UV-DOAS) to monitor air quality; uses fast Fourier transform analysis to monitor particulate matter in effluents released from stacks.

Geographic information systems and global positioning
– Uses optics and photonics in imaging and image processing to refine atmospheric and space-based images.

Information technology – Uses optics for data storage, ultrafast data switching, and (especially) transmission of data across fiber-optic networks.

Chemical technology
– Relies on molecular optical spectroscopy for analysis and on ultra-short laser pulses to induce fluorescence; chemical vapor deposition and plasma etching support photonics thin film applications.

Transportation – Uses optics for monitoring exhaust emissions to ensure the integrity of shipping containers arriving from foreign ports, and navigation with ring laser gyroscopes .

Homeland security – DNA scanning, laser forensics, retinal scanning, identification of dangerous substances, optical surveillance.

Manufacturing
– Laser welding, drilling, and cutting; precision measurements.

ATETV Episode 47: Industry Offers Opportunities and Incentives

Friday, August 27th, 2010

This week, from directly impacting one student’s experience, to networking and sharing resources in professional learning communities and tailoring community college programs to meet critical hiring needs, industry involvement makes a difference everyday in Advanced Technological Education.

First we meet Andrew Engel, a student with a passion for hands-on electronics and an interest in alternative energy. Andrew is currently enrolled in the Electronics Engineering program at Stark State College where he has found an outlet for both in the Fuel Cell Technology program. Andrew reveals that “Since (I was) a kid boy, (I always) tore stuff apart, tried to fix things.” Guided by industry input, this program translates that childhood hobby to hands-on labs like the DC and AC Circuit Analysis. In this lab, Andrew can continue to do more of what he has always loved to do while preparing for a secure and bright future.

Advanced Technological Education programs offered through community colleges benefit from being part of a large network of expertise and shared resources. In the second segment, we visit one example of a program where curriculum is structured with industry input and faculty are trained to be up-to-date with the skills they are teaching- the National Center for Information and Communications Technologies at Springfield Technical Community College in Springfield, MA.

Finally, in the third segment, we see how the close relationship these national ATE Centers and ATE programs at community colleges share with industry professionals is also beneficial to the industries. In the field of Lasers and Photonics Technology, for example, industry is actively seeking to hire more female technicians. Central Carolina Community College offers a special incentive to reach out to more qualified women in response. “One thing that we have is a sex equity grant,” recruiter Gary Beasley tells us. “All females can go to school for free- free tuition, free books. It doesn’t make any difference if they are real poor or real rich. It’s free education. You can’t beat that!”

Nope. You can’t beat that! By collaborating directly with industry, ATE programs at community colleges across the country are able to offer many advantages to students as they prepare them for the high-paying, high-demand jobs of the future.

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.”

ATETV Episode 19: On the Cutting Edge

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

When people think high-tech, they often think of laser beams and white lab coats. Well, we have both of those represented this week, but we start somewhere unexpected: out on the farm.

Joe Tarrence, a second-year student at Kirkwood Community College, is studying how to use GPS to help farmers increase their yields. Joe’s already out in the workforce, selling equipment to farmers and advising them on how to use it. “The sky’s the limit with this precision farming,” he says.

Next we meet Jazmine Murphy, a student in the lasers and photonics program at Central Carolina Community College. CCCC has made a concerted effort to recruit students, particularly young women with an interest in science and engineering. And with applications ranging from telephone lines to the military, Jazmine’s experience with lasers should serve her well after graduation.

Finally, we learn about biomanufacturing, which is the use of living organisms or parts of them to produce drugs like vaccines or insulin. It’s “using cells that you genetically modify to act as factories for your biomanufactured product,” explains Sonia Wallerman of the Northeast Biomanufacturing Center and Collaborative.

Whether they involve lasers, living cells or tractors, ATE programs are helping students stay on the cutting-edge of technology. And that will help them find jobs in these high-tech industries coming out of school.