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Photonics and Laser Technology Program
Light-based technologies continue to develop at a fast pace, and have a large and beneficial impact on the world’s economy. This is due to photonics being an enabling technology, used extensively in multiple sectors such as manufacturing, defense and homeland security, medicine and health, communications, and energy. Year 2015 was declared the International Year of Light by UNESCO and was celebrated with events in more than 100 countries. In the Midwest photonics and especially high-power lasers play an important role in manufacturing and defense industries. Well prepared technicians are in high demand by the photonics companies to support the growth of the industry. These technicians are however quite difficult to find, as there are few programs across the US who prepare them. Our university started a photonics and laser technology program four years ago with support from the National Science Foundation. The program is very hands-on with experimental lab components in virtually all core courses. A well-equipped Optics and Photonics Laboratory has been created, which continues to grow with additional equipment. The program culminates with a capstone project where students put together a laser-based optical system. The program curriculum is continuously revised and improved under guidance from an Industrial Advisory Board. New applications such as the use of LIDAR in autonomous vehicles and others are planned for introduction in the curriculum next academic year. Graduates of the 2-year program can continue their education with a 4-year engineering or engineering technology program. The paper will present the photonics and laser technology program curriculum, laboratory resources, capstone projects, and program related activities.