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NSF ATE MPEC Midwest Photonics Education Center

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session II

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Greg Kepner Midwest Photonics Education Center

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GREG KEPNER, M. Ed., is the Department Chair for Advanced Manufacturing Technology programs at Indian Hills Community College. Greg serves as the Principal Investigator and Director of MPEC, the Midwest Photonics Education Center, a regional NSF-ATE center. Greg previously served as a Co-Principal Investigator for OP-TEC, the NSF-ATE National Center for Optics and Photonics Education. He has administrative responsibility for the leadership of the manufacturing technology programs at IHCC. He has served as Industrial Technology Coordinator and has taught automation, robotics, and electronics. He developed an Early College program in which high school students earn post-secondary credits towards an AAS degree in Lasers, Robotics, or Electronics Engineering. He has previously worked as a Senior Field Service Engineer in semiconductor manufacturing and is currently serving on the boards of the Iowa Association of Career and Technical Education and the Iowa Industrial Technology Education Association.

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Anca L. Sala Baker College, Flint

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Dr. Anca L. Sala is Professor and Dean of Engineering and Computer Technology at Baker College of Flint. In addition to her administrative role she is involved with development of new engineering and technology programs and curriculum, improving teaching and assessment of student learning, assessment of program outcomes and objectives, and ABET accreditation. She is a founding member of Mi-Light Michigan Photonics Cluster, and is active in the ASEE, ASME, and OSA professional societies serving in various capacities.

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The International Year of Light was celebrated in 2015 with events all over the world highlighting the strategic importance of photonics and light-based technologies. As an enabling technology, photonics plays a key role in fields as diverse as manufacturing, health and medicine, communications, defense, and energy. A new advanced manufacturing institute dedicated to Integrated Photonics was also announced in 2015 which has attracted the highest public and private investment to date.

Focusing on the education of technicians, the Midwest Photonics Education Center was established in 2014 as an NSF ATE supported regional center. It brings together nine colleges and universities and numerous industry partners from nine Midwest states. Its main mission is to develop and grow two year photonics technician education programs to prepare the highly skilled workforce the photonics industry needs. The goals of the Center are: 1) Establish education programs and strategies to address industry needs for photonics technicians, 2) Provide national leadership for technician education in laser-assisted advanced manufacturing, 3) Strengthen educational institutions’ ability to recruit, train and advance photonics students including women, minorities and veterans, 4) Collaborate with partner educational institutions and employers to promote photonics in the K-14 space to fill the student “pipeline”, 5) Develop customized on-site photonics education workshops and provide to companies and colleges, and 6) Evaluate educational materials and share best practices.

Accomplishments during the first year since the Center was established include: mentoring and advising several colleges interested in adding dedicated photonics programs and infusing photonics courses in existing curricula, surveying 950 employers to determine their education and training needs in the photonics area, delivering outreach events to 8000+ K-12 students involving hands-on exploration of lasers and optics, providing professional development to faculty, participating in training and subsequently developing a recruiting and retention plan for females and minorities into the photonics technology field, and giving presentations about best practices in photonics technician education at several conferences. Next steps include setting up a laser assisted manufacturing laboratory at Indian Hills Community College and developing the associated curriculum to serve as a model for colleges in the Midwest interested in teaching this advanced manufacturing technology.

Kepner, G., & Sala, A. L. (2016, June), NSF ATE MPEC Midwest Photonics Education Center Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25807

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