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The Laser Cult: Hands On Laboratory In Photonics

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

On Pedagogy of Lab Courses and Their Design

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1308.1 - 11.1308.9



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Paper Authors


Alan Cheville Oklahoma State University

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Alan Cheville is an associate professor of electrical engineering at Oklahoma State University. Starting out along the traditional tenure path as a researcher in THz ultrafast opto-electronic devices, his interests are shifting to the larger problem of engineering education. Dr. Cheville is currently engaged in several curriculum reform efforts based on making engineering more relevant to students and emphasizing student development to an equal degree as content.

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

likely they were to attend graduate school. The responses were given on a Likert scale with 1 representing much less likely (negative impact) and 5 being much more likely (positive impact). The responses had a mean score of 4.12; no students reported the course had a negative impact, 38% reported no impact, and 62% reported a positive impact. In comparison, a control sample of three junior level courses taught using lecture had a mean score of 3.07 with a negative impact on 7% of students, no impact on 79%, and a positive impact on 14% of students.

In conclusion, the LASER CULT integrates different active learning methods to separately address student learning on different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The course format addresses some of the issues outlined in the National Academy report Harnessing Light1 that are needed to support and grow optics and photonics. Assessment data indicates the LASER CULT makes course concepts more relevant to students and provides positive experiences in functioning on a team through a focus on in-depth projects. The LASER CULT is synergistic with ABET outcomes, particularly “soft” outcomes (d, g, h, and i of criterion 3).

The LASER CULT was supported through the National Science Foundation through the CAREER program (NSF9984896); the Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement program (NSF0088279), and the Department Level Planning Grants for Engineering Education (NSF0230695). LASER CULT case studies are available on-line3, as are portfolios of student work8. The author acknowledges generous equipment donations from Melles Griot and Thorlabs.


1 Committee on Optical Science and Engineering, Harnessing light: Optical science and engineering in the 21st century. (National Academy Press, Washington, D. C., 1998). 2 S. B. Feichtner and E. A. Davis, "Why some groups fail: a survey of students' experiences with learning groups," J. Organ. Behav. Teaching Soc., vol. 9, pp. 58-73, 1984. 3 The case studies used and extensive information on using case studies is available on National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science web site: 4 D. R. Woods, Problem-based Learning: how to gain the most from PBL, third ed. Hamilton, ON: Waterdown, 1996. 5 E. Seymour, (1997). Student Assessment of Learning Gains, Madison, WI. [Online]. Available: Accessed April, 2004. 6 L. K. Michaelsen, "Team Learning: A Comprehensive Approach to Harnessing the Power of Small Groups in Higher Education," To Improve the Academy, vol. 11, pp. 5-54, 1992. 7 R. Alan Cheville, Arthur McGovern, Kay S. Bull, The Light Applications in Science and Engineering Research Collaborative Undergraduate Laboratory for Teaching (LASER CULT)-Relevant Experiential Learning in Photonics, IEEE Transactions on Education, vol. 48, p. 245, 2005. 8 Student proposals, reports, and the on-line catalog used by students are on the LASER CULT web site:

Cheville, A. (2006, June), The Laser Cult: Hands On Laboratory In Photonics Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--868

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