LASER-TEC Center at IRSC develops photonics kits to support remote learning nationwide

NEWS RELEASE

John Anderson, LASER-TEC technologist, manufactures laser stands using resin and rubber-silicon casting. 
Quick adaptation to the changing environment during the spread of COVID-19 led the LASER-TEC Center at Indian River State College (IRSC) to create a method to address the challenge of continuing students’ photonics laboratory practice. The Center developed and manufactured photonics education kits to send to students at every Optics and Photonics College Network (OPCN) college nationwide at no cost to students.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE), LASER-TEC responded to the nationwide shift to remote learning. Staff at the Center developed, assembled and mailed a photonics education kit, or Light and Optic Experiment Kit (LOEK), to students in photonics programs at institutions in their college network across the country. The Center directly mails the LOEK to the home of teaching faculty and students—minimizing their exposure to the virus.
“Developing the LOEK allows students across the nation to continue with experiments and the hands-on learning required for their photonics and optics studies,” shares. Dr. Chrys Panayiotou, Executive Director and Principal Investigator. “Our students like the fact that they can do the experiments at their own pace and repeat them as many times as needed until they master the concept or the skill. OPCN instructors appreciated that the kits allow students to experiment remotely and learn all the practical skills of the course.”
Each LOEK supports a majority of experiments found in the textbook, Fundamentals of Light and Lasers, allowing students to complete 18 experiments from home. To date, the LASER-TEC Center has delivered 116 kits to students at 11 colleges in Florida, Montana, Georgia, Michigan, Iowa, Washington, New York, California, Puerto Rico, and even Canada.
“Using the LOEK has been a unique, fun experience, and I really like doing the labs.” shares Luis Morales of Aibonito, Purto Rico. Morales is a student of the Photonics Institute of Puerto Rico, Engineering Technology in Photonics & Lasers at Universidad, a member institution of the OPCN. “Being under quarantine, I have been able to experiment with the laser and the other components. It has been a cool opportunity.”
An experiment manual developed and published by the LASER-TEC Center at IRSC is included as part of each kit, and the LASER-TEC Center will additionally develop videos to guide students through the experiments supported by the kits. The videos will be made available on the LASER-TEC Center YouTube channel.
For more information about LOEKs or the LASER-TEC Center at IRSC, visit www.laser-tec.org.

About The Center for Laser and Fiber Optics Education, LASER-TEC 

Headquartered at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida, The Center for Laser and Fiber Optics Education, LASER-TEC, was founded by the National Science Foundation in 2013 and is an association of community and state colleges, universities, high schools and technical centers, trade associations, and laser and fiber optic (LFO) companies that serves the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. LASER-TEC invites academic and industry partners to join in its mission to meet the demand for a trained laser and fiber optics workforce across the Southeastern United States.

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