National Science Foundation grant to fund LASER-TEC expansion

An IRSC student measures the power of a green polarized light

An IRSC student measures the power of a green polarized light during class. IRSC PHOTO


The Center for Laser and Fiber Optic Education, LASER-TEC, headquartered at Indian River State College, has received a $1.6 million National Science Foundation grant to support its transition into an Advanced Technological Education Resource Center. The expanded center will be better positioned to increase the laser, optics, photonic and fiber optics technical workforce to meet Department of Labor projections.

The resource center will update and maintain educational services and materials and provide open access to these resources for secondary, post-secondary and industry educational and training programs. The project’s scope includes:

• Developing a comprehensive, high-performing, and responsive website to house and distribute all LOPFO educational products;

• Enhancing all curricular materials with updated technical content and high-impact pedagogical strategies;

• Creating tailored content and professional development events for teachers, college instructors, counselors, advisors, administrators, incumbent industry members, and other communities;

• Informing K-12 and college educators about the availability of these resources; and

• Connecting industries that need LOPFO technicians and colleges that offer LOPFO programs.

“Lasers, optics, photonics, and fiber optics are used in many advanced technologies including medical instrumentation, photonics-integrated circuits, telecommunications, advanced manufacturing and biotechnology,” says Chrys Panayiotou, LASER-TEC’s executive director and principal Investigator. “This project intends to sustain and expand efforts to meet the national shortage of qualified LOPFO technicians.”

The Department of Labor projects that between 2016 and 2026 at least 1,700 LOPFO technicians will be needed to fill open positions. These jobs have a median annual salary of more than $63,000.

The grant will facilitate the development of new modules in the areas of Raman spectroscopy, LiDAR, high power diode lasers, femtosecond lasers, disk lasers and other LOPFO technologies, in cooperation with industry partners. LASER-TEC will also continue its efforts in supporting historically underserved and underrepresented groups to increase diversity in this technological field.

The Center for Laser and Fiber Optics Education, LASER-TEC, founded by the National Science Foundation in 2013, is an association of community and state colleges, universities, high schools and technical centers, trade associations and laser and fiber optic companies.

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