Monday, February 9, 2009

Texas State Technical 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.

Texas State Technical College (TSTC) in Waco, TX, was the first college in the U.S. to initiate education in Laser/Electro-Optics Technology (LEOT) technician education. In 1969, TSTC’s LEOT program became the pilot site for curriculum development, conducted by Technical Education Research Center SW (TERC-SW), under a grant from the U.S. Office of Education. (In 1979, TERC-SW became CORD, the Center for Occupational Research and Development.) TSTC’s LEOT program grew rapidly in the 1970’s, with a national job market for laser technicians, and support from employers such as Sandia, Los Alamos, Texas Instruments and Caterpillar. By 1980, enrollment in TSTC’s LEOT program exceeded 130 students. Over $5 million in lab equipment has been acquired or donated to support the labs.

Today, TSTC Waco offers photonics-related AAS degree programs:

  1. Laser Electro-Optics Technology (LEOT) is a 72-hour AAS program, containing eight courses (36 hours) in optics, electro-optics, laser fundamentals, laser systems and applications. Graduates of the LEOT program are qualified to work as R&D technicians in energy, defense and aerospace, as field service techs for laser equipment and for laser systems OEM companies.
  2. Nanotechnology is also a 72-hour program, which specializes in nanotechnology instrumentation and measurements. Optics and photonics are an integral part of the curriculum, which provides students access to advanced, industry-standard equipment in lasers and optics, vacuum systems, semiconductor development equipment, scanning electron microscopes, transmission electron microscopes, atomic force microscopes, ellipsometers and laser microscopes.

    TSTC is also planning to offer a one-year certificate for Laser Lab Technicians as an “early college” program in the near future.

In addition to its role as an OP-TEC model college and provider of technical assistance, TSTC provides other, unique services to OP-TEC:

  • John O. Pedrotti, Program Chair, has designed and built a laser/optics fundamentals lab where he conducts one-week, summer workshops for high school teachers and students. John has developed a detailed syllabus lecture/demonstration notes, lab activities and hand-outs for this workshop—which he is willing to share. He is also developing a report describing planning, recruiting and operating the workshop.
  • John has authored an instructional module in nanophotonics and a Program Planning Guide for infusing photonics in nanotechnology.
  • Larry Grulick, OP-TEC CoPI, is developing a series of six “Career Videos”, highlighting former photonics students that are successfully employed as technicians. These will be available in summer 2009.
  • TSTC’s participation as a Partner College in OP-TEC has provided professional development opportunities for John, a leadership role for TSTC in photonics education and significant enrollment growth in TSTC’s photonics programs through the testing of innovative student recruitment strategies such as summer workshops and focused recruiters.

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

Contact info for TSTC:

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