University News

College of Engineering Laboratory for Education and Application Prototypes (LEAP) to Offer Hands-on Integrated Photonics Training

Published: February 09, 2022 | Categories: All News, Engineering
Professor Steve Adamshick working with EWD PIC kit.

Western New England University (WNE) College of Engineering Laboratory for Education and Application Prototypes (LEAP@WNE) in Springfield, Massachusetts is first to offer the latest hands-on integrated photonics training in collaboration with Spark Photonics to enhance the Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) Departments Optics/Photonics Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) degree sequence.

Spark Photonics, an independent commercial photonic integrated circuit design house based in Waltham, Massachusetts, recently delivered its first commercially available Education and Workforce Development (EWD) Photonic Integrated Circuit (PIC) Kit to the Western New England University College of Engineering Laboratory for Education and Application Prototypes (LEAP) in Springfield, Massachusetts. LEAP@WNE is a state-of-the-art optics/photonics training center established through the Massachusetts Center for Advanced Manufacturing to advance innovations and job growth throughout the state.

Steve Adamshick, Associate Professor and Director of LEAP@WNE, says there will definitely be a shift in their program as a result of the EWD PIC Kit. "Starting in the fall of 2022, WNE will officially include an integrated optics/photonics sequence within their electrical engineering program using learning modules from the EWD PIC kits."

"This is a far more effective way of communicating critical integrated photonics concepts to students," he said. "Before, we relied heavily on computer simulation tools to visualize abstract concepts such as guided wave modes and how they contribute to key parameters such as waveguide loss and confinement. Now, with the EWD PIC kits, we can provide the hands-on learning experiences to demonstrate these concepts in action and, more importantly, close the loop from design to fabrication to test."

Unlike other established industries, few education and workforce development programs focus specifically on the integrated photonics industry in the U.S., and only a handful of those offer students the type of hands-on experience that they will face in a real-world manufacturing environment.

Neeraj Magotra, Chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, applauds the development of more hands-on learning tools for students and educators. "The Hands-On learning experience is a critical and key component of all ECE offerings including embedded systems, digital signal processing, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence/robotics, wireless communication, and now integrated optics/photonics."

The hands-on difference at WNE has resulted in the ECE department placing 99% of its students in jobs with a median salary of $103,390 or full tuition scholarships at prestigious R1 institutions (those with very high research activity).

Magotra says, "Integrated photonics is just the latest technological advancement that enhances core ECE fundamentals, and we look forward to innovating joint projects/collaborations across the College of Engineering."

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