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Systems Technicians: Electronics Foundation With Photonics, Robotics and Other Specialties

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Gainful Employment: Preparing Technicians to Satisfy the Needs of Industry

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1151.1 - 24.1151.9



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Paper Authors


Daniel M. Hull P.E. OP-TEC

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Registered Professional Engineer, BSEE Univ. Texas, MSEE Univ. Pitt, PI and Executive Director, OP-TEC, NSF/ATE National Center for Optics and Photonics Education

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Chrysanthos Andreas Panayiotou Indian River State College

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Dr. Chrysanthos A. Panayiotou is the director of the National Science Foundation Southeast Regional Center for Laser and Fiber Optics based at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce Florida. For the last 20 years he served as electronics professor, program director and department chair of the electronics and electrical power technology programs at Indian River State College and Brevard Community College where he created new courses and programs, updated curricula, and increased enrollment to full capacity. Chrysanthos authored two textbooks and six laboratory manuals in the areas of analog and digital electronics, and schematic capture and printed circuit board layout. Panayiotou started his career in industrial controls and automation and then transitioned to the telecommunications industry where he designed VHF and UHF networks.
Panayiotou received his undergraduate electrical engineering degree from Higher Technical Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus. With the support from a Fulbright scholarship, he completed his master’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Central Florida. Chrysanthos continued his graduate studies at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, where he received a doctoral degree in educational leadership.

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Hull/Panayiotou ASEE PST Abstract 201013 Systems Technicians: Electronics Foundation with Photonics, Robotics and other Specialties AbstractEmployment trends for technicians in the physical sciences are calling for broad-based technicalknowledge and skills, with a specialization in an emerging technology, such as photonics, robotics &automation, instrumentation & control, biomedical equipment etc. The AAS degree curriculum forpreparing these techs typically includes a technical core of electronics, plus 3-4 specialty courses in oneof these emerging technologies. An example that has been tested and proven very successful is inPhotonics.The NSF/ATE National Center for Optics and Photonics (OP-TEC) recently conducted a survey ofemployers that revealed a need for ~800 new technicians/year for at least the next five years. In thepast several decades, Laser/Optics technicians were prepared for an AAS degree curriculum thatrequired 8-10 specialty courses. Using focus groups of photonics employers OP-TEC determined that thishigh degree of specialization is only required for ~15% of the new technicians; 85% of the need is forPhotonics Systems Technicians, where photonics is an “enabling technology” in many fields. Photonics systems technicians (PSTs) work in industries whose processes and operations require the extensive use of photonics devices to meet production or mission goals. PSTs frequently integrate photonics devices or subsystems into larger systems, where photonics is an enabling technology. PSTs must have broad, working knowledge and skills of electronic and electromechanical devices/systems, combined with their specialty knowledge and skills in photonics to efficiently and effectively operate, maintain, repair, and calibrate photonics subsystems, and integrate these subsystems into full systems.New curricula designs for PSTs require only 3-4 photonics courses, supported by an electronics technicalcore. Colleges initiating or revising photonics programs can utilize the existing electronics curricula andreduce the technical specialization from 8-10 photonics courses to 3-4 courses. This new strategy notonly addresses most of the job requirements, it requires only one photonics faculty member instead of3-4, and <$350K of lab equipment instead of $2-3 million.Indian River State College converted to the PST curriculum structure in 2008, including several otherspecialties such robotics, fiber optics communications, instrumentation & control, and biomedicalequipment. This change has reenergized IRSC’s rapidly declining Electronics program. Enrollment is nowat a maximum capacity and completers are highly sought by employers in industries such as photonics,communications, automated systems, defense and environmental control. Completers of the programsreceive AAS degrees in Electronics with a specialty in Photonics, etc. Design of the curriculum is basedon OP-TEC’s National Photonics Skill Standards.Twenty eight of the 35 photonics programs throughout the country have adopted the PST model, whichhas realized enrollment growth, employment offers to completers—and significantly reduced theinstitutional cost for all of the programs supported by the electronics core.

Hull, D. M., & Panayiotou, C. A. (2014, June), Systems Technicians: Electronics Foundation With Photonics, Robotics and Other Specialties Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23084

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