The PHOTON Projects
In 1994, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the first Advanced Technology Education (ATE) grants with the goal of improving technician education at two-year colleges and forming partnerships between academic institutions and industry. In 1995, the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) in Boston, Massachusetts received its first ATE grant, a project to prepare teachers to introduce fiber optic technology to secondary and postsecondary students in the six New England states. The work of the first grant was adapted and expanded by three subsequent ATE grants. The impact of these projects has grown in technical breadth and geographical extent to include all of photonics technology and teachers and faculty from Maine to Hawaii. Through our work with the optics/photonics societies OSA and SPIE, our impact has spread throughout the globe.
Fiber Optic Technology Education Project (FOTEP) 1995 – 1998
The first of the NEBHE photonics-related ATE projects increased the number of secondary schools and colleges (primarily two-year community colleges) prepared to introduce fiber optics technology to their students. Over a period of 30 months, FOTEP worked with teachers and faculty from more than 40 schools in a series of workshops, providing curriculum, materials, technical assistance and a unique opportunity to network with other educators and fiber optic industry personnel.
Key FOTEP Outcomes:
- Modules, courses and programs in fiber optic technology were developed at New England high schools and colleges
- Over 60% of FOTEP faculty participants built contacts and partnerships with local fiber optics businesses.
- Strong collaboration between high school and college level instructors promoted.
- A lab kit was developed for fiber optic laboratory experiments and a set of fiber optics instructional materials was developed.
PHOTON 2000 – 2003
PHOTON addressed photonics education on a number of fronts. Of primary importance was increasing the number of teachers who had the knowledge and skills to teach photonics technology. Although ATE programs are focused on two-year colleges, PHOTON recognized that the pipeline of college students starts well before college admission, perhaps even before secondary school. For this reason, project PHOTON included middle and high school teachers as well as college faculty. This cross-grades collaboration resulted in the development of educational pathways in science education to help students achieve as they progressed through the educational system. Project PHOTON also included guidance counselors in the professional development workshops. Counselors gained new knowledge on available career options and provided outreach to students interested in math, science and technology careers.
Key PHOTON Outcomes:
- 39 New England schools participated, with teachers from middle schools, high schools and community colleges.
- A mentored email Listserv was established that is still active today with more than 100 education and industry members.
- The FOTEP lab kit was expanded to include components for experiments with lasers and 25 laboratory experiments in basic & applied optics were developed and field-tested.
- A series of 13 optics-focused “Explorations” suitable for middle school science labs were developed.
- High schools, community colleges and local industry created stronger bonds leading to joint activities such as field trips, job
PHOTON2 Project (2003-2006)
PHOTON2 gave educators the necessary skills and resources to implement and teach photonics courses by producing an introductory textbook and other materials and a distance-learning program for educators. Like PHOTON, PHOTON2 established Alliances between local high schools and colleges to provide seamless integration between their STEM curricula. Educators from eight geographic locations were brought together to facilitate photonics technology education in their local institutions to develop educational pathways for students.
Key PHOTON2 Outcomes:
- Web-based professional development course, “Introduction to Photonics.“
- Instructional materials, including a 15 chapter textbook, Light – Introduction to Optics and Photonics. https://store.photonics.com/books/light-introduction-to-optics-photonics
- A field-tested, industry-quality laboratory equipment kit, with 25 exercises and lab demo videos.
- Support by local industry for instructors and students.
Local,paid summer internships in the photonics industry during 2005 and 2006 for teachers and counselors.
- A capstone “Showcase” workshop in 2006 held in collaboration with SPIE.
This project developed materials for teaching optics/photonics through Problem-Based Learning, a student-centered pedagogy that teaches structured problem-solving at the same time as content.
Find out more about PHOTON PBL and Problem Based Learning here PHOTON PBL