Monday, February 23, 2009

Indian Hills Community College: An OP-TEC Partner College

OP-TEC is a consortium of two year colleges that have well-established photonics programs. These “Partner Colleges” are the models for OP-TEC curricula; they develop and test instructional modules, guides, innovative courses and teaching strategies; and they provide technical assistance to colleges that are planning and initiating new offerings in photonics.

Indian Hills Community College (IHCC), in Ottumwa, IA has a 24-year history in Laser/Electro-Optics Technology (LEOT) education. When the LEOT Program was created in 1985, it included some small labs and laser equipment. In 1990, IHCC opened the 128,000 square foot Advanced Technology Center (ATC). The 4000 square foot Laser Electro-Optics Technology laboratory, located in the ATC along with other advanced technology programs, has a large common area equipped with isolation tables, low power lasers, computers, and optical equipment. Surrounding the common area, there are 7 LEOT application laboratories that house a laser machining system, a laser welding system, several medical lasers, a laser stent cutting system, a laser engraving system, and numerous low power lasers, instrumentation, and photonics equipment.

The LEOT AAS degree program at IHCC shares a common electronics core curriculum with the Robotics/Automation Technology program and the Electronics Engineering Technology program. IHCC has also infused one photonics course into the electronics core curriculum, so that students from all 3 majors will receive photonics education/training.

The Electronics Core diploma program includes a photonics course, 3 math courses, 5 electrical/electronics courses, along with other courses in computers, business, communications, and social sciences. The second year of the LEOT program includes 11 laser specialty courses, a physics course, and other general education courses.

Since its inception, IHCC has graduated over 435 LEOT technicians, which have been employed broadly across the nation at firms such as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Spectra Physics, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Laserage and Boston Scientific.

In addition to their role as an OP-TEC model, college mentor, and provider of technical assistance, IHCC provides these services for OP-TEC:

  • Greg Kepner and the IHCC photonics staff developed the Program Planning Guide entitled Infusing Photonics Education into Manufacturing Technology AAS Programs.
  • Instructor Bill Gray will be pilot testing an online photonics course for incumbent workers beginning in March 2009.
  • Instructor Frank Reed has assisted in reviewing the National Photonics Skill Standard and photonics related curriculum materials.
  • Department Chair, Greg Kepner has presented information at national conferences on IHCC’s innovative Early College Program for area high schools that provides students with the opportunity to earn up to 40 college credits and an Electronics diploma while still in high school.

IHCC’s participation as a Partner College in OP-TEC has provided professional development opportunities for Greg and Bill, a leadership role for IHCC in photonics education and contributed to enrollment growth in IHCC’s photonics programs through their Early College Program partnership with area high schools.

Are you a graduate of IHCC? Tell me about your experience at IHCC. Where are you working now? How did your education at IHCC prepare you for your career?

Contact information for IHCC:
(641) 683-5284

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