Monroe Community College’s new Optics & Photonics Technology Innovation program, OPT IN!, has received $550,434 from the National Science Foundation to connect more high school and college students to career opportunities in the growing fields and produce a skilled workforce needed to keep up with industry demands.
Funded over the next three years, the program will help provide education and training for 850 area high school and college students, increase internship opportunities and expand outreach efforts to populations underrepresented in the optics and photonics industry, including women and minorities, the college said.
The only U.S. community college that offers an associate degree in optical systems technology, MCC will enhance its existing program with new industry-based curriculum and industry-standard lab equipment and build collaborations allowing more high school students to earn college credits toward a degree at MCC, officials said.
In addition, summer internships and 2+2 transfer opportunities between MCC and four-year institutions will be developed.
Through the OPT IN! program, high school teachers and MCC faculty will receive professional development through externships.
Mentoring will also be provided to regional high school teachers to prepare them to teach a dual-enrollment Introduction to Optics course. Efforts will focus on broadening regional industry and community partnerships aimed at providing experiential learning opportunities and education about optics and photonics as a career option, college officials said.
“This grant will allow MCC to strengthen our region’s optics and photonics workforce and provide students here with employment opportunities in regional high-skill, high-demand positions,” said Alexis Vogt, associate professor in MCC’s Engineering Technologies Department and chair of the optics program.
“Ultimately this funding gives us the foundation to begin creating a regional center that will ensure we have the workforce it needs to attract, build and sustain a strong photonics industry.”
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