Monday, March 9, 2009

Central Carolina 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.

The Laser & Photonics Technology (LPT) program is located at the Harnett County Campus of Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) in Lillington, NC. It is a 74 hour, two year associate degree program, with five photonics courses building from the electronics core curriculum. The first year of the program, students’ core classes consist of mainly electronics. The following photonics courses are offered during the second year:
  • Lasers and Applications
  • Photonics Technology
  • Photonics Applications
  • Photonics Project
  • Fiber Optics

Upon graduation, students earn an AAS degree in Laser & Photonics Technology as well as a certificate in Electronics Engineering Technology. Placement rate of CCCC LPT graduates has recently been near 100%, with laser systems and communications companies in the Carolinas and in surrounding states. Feedback from employers about the knowledge, skills and work ethics of LPT grads is very positive. A company who hires many of the graduates commented that, in a recent test given to 600 laser technicians “…all of the CCCC graduates scored in the 90 percentile.”

The LPT program was initiated at CCCC in 1987 by Steve Lympany; today it is led by Gary Beasley. The program facilities include two main classrooms and 7 labs. One lab is for electronics, one lab is for electronics and low power lasers/photonics, four labs are for high power lasers, and one lab is dedicated to fiber optics. Since its inception, several hundred students have graduated and are employed in photonics companies throughout the country. Many graduates have also taken advantage of articulation agreements with several universities, which provide a path for students from the LPT program to continue their education, earning a four year degree with only two additional years.

Recruitment and retention of students are the greatest challenge for the LPT program. Recruitment has improved in recent years due to implementing of OP-TEC strategies to “build the high school pipeline”. Retention has also improved due to the use of the supplemental Math for Photonics materials, developed by OP-TEC and tested by CCCC. (See Dec. 18, 2008 blog post.)

In addition to his role as an OP-TEC model, college mentor, and provider of technical assistance CCCC lead instructor, Gary Beasley, has assisted OP-TEC in the following ways:

  • Reviewed and pilot tested OP-TEC instructional modules.
  • Hosted an OP-TEC Information Workshop last spring.
  • Developed and conducted “Laser Workshops” at CCCC for high school, and middle school, students.
  • Developed and tested lab activities and prepared equipment specifications to support OP-TEC instructional modules.

CCCC’s participation as a Partner College in OP-TEC has provided professional development opportunities for Gary, a leadership role for CCCC in photonics education and has strengthened CCCC’s outreach to high schools through recruitment efforts and on-campus student experiences.

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

Contact information for CCCC's LPT Program:
Mr. Gary Beasley
Lead Instructor
(910) 814-8828

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