LASER-TEC receives $1.6M NSF grant to expand its resource center

May 13, 2020
The expanded Resource Center will be better positioned to increase the laser, optics, photonics, and fiber optics technical workforce to meet U.S. Department of Labor projections.

The Center for Laser and Fiber Optic Education (LASER-TEC), headquartered at Indian River State College (Fort Pierce, FL), 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 lasers, optics, photonics, and fiber optics (LOPFO) technical workforce to meet U.S. Department of Labor projections.

The new 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 LOPFO 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, photonic integrated circuits, telecommunications, advanced manufacturing, and biotechnology,” says Dr. 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 U.S. Department of Labor projects that between 2016 and 2026, at least 1700 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. 

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Source: LASER-TEC press release – May 13, 2020

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