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Design And Collaborative Learning In Lasers And Photonics Courses

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.158.1 - 4.158.9

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Alexander N. Cartwright

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2632

Design and Collaborative-learning in Lasers and Photonics Courses

Alexander N. Cartwright Department of Electrical Engineering State University of New York at Buffalo


The growth of photonics technology (light emission and detection technology) continues at a terrific rate and is expected to be as high as 20% this year. At the same time, this increase in market demand for photonics equipment leads to a demand for skilled workers with hands-on experience. However, traditionally, Lasers and Opto-electronics have been taught as theoretical courses with very little applied work included. Here, recent efforts in converting the Photonics courses (Introduction to Lasers and Consumer Optoelectronics) at the State University of New York at Buffalo to include high design content will be presented. Specifically, a cost effective (only changes teaching style) collaborative active-learning environment, similar to a research environment, to stimulate student interest was implemented. This learning environment incorporates cooperative learning, experience-based hands-on learning, and the application of information technologies. In the first semester Introduction to Lasers course, students are required to design a laser system given a gain medium. The second semester course, Consumer Optoelectronics, offered in the spring, requires the design and implementation of an optical system that can replace current electronic systems. Moreover, these courses were designed to train engineers for entry into industry by emphasizing group efforts, active learning, and gender and race friendly learning styles. From the first two offerings of these courses using this style, it is clear that the students learned the material, enjoyed the course, and were enthusiastic about future optical design courses. Here, the qualitative assessment of, and some example design projects from, Introduction to Lasers and Consumer Optoelectronics, will be presented. Furthermore, a quantitative assessment of the methodology will be presented.

I. Introduction

The photonics industry is growing at a rate of approximately twenty percent per year and, more importantly, this growth is expected to continue for at least the next five years. Photonics, as opposed to electronics, is focused on the design of systems that can manipulate photons, instead of electrons, for signal and information processing. These photonic systems can be as simple as a single element imaging system to as complicated as a multi-element fiber optic communications system. Moreover, photonic systems are prevalent in today’s information processing technology that includes such systems as fiber optic communications systems, CD- ROM’s, optical scanners, displays, and laser printers. Unfortunately, with all the growth of this industry, most academic institutions have not embraced the education of a work-force for this

Cartwright, A. N. (1999, June), Design And Collaborative Learning In Lasers And Photonics Courses Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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