ETOP Meets on Challenge of Educating for Continued Technology Progress

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Challenges in meeting global needs in energy, clean water, and health are addressed by photonics technology applications, but educators in the field must continually upgrade and renew teaching practices to meet the growing demands of research, science, and industry, noted speakers at the recent ETOP meeting in Bordeaux. In one talk, SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs outlined those challenges and highlighted how the International Year of Light 2015 is helping to raise awareness of the importance of light-based technologies.

The Institut d'Optique d'Aquitaine in Bordeaux hosted ETOP 2015.

The Institut d'Optique d'Aquitaine in Bordeaux hosted ETOP 2015.

To meet the growing demands on research, science, and industry, educators must continually upgrade teaching to support the advance of the world’s technological infrastructure.

Educators gathering earlier this month in Bordeaux at ETOP, the international conference on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics, started with a reminder of the great challenge of their vocation. To meet the growing demands on research, science, and industry, educators in the field must continually upgrade teaching that supports the continuation and advance of the world’s technological infrastructure.

The biennial event took place 29 June through 2 July at the Institut d’Optique on the campus of the University of Bordeaux in France. The program was organized by co-chairs Laurent Sarger and Eric Cormier of the university and by the PYLA group.

Sessions included topics such as tools for photonics education, outreach and STEM education, continuing education, hands-on demonstrations, metrics, designing programs to meet industry needs, and digital technology for education. ETOP addresses topics at the pre-college, technician and two-year, four-year and graduate-equivalent levels.

In an opening invited talk, Eugene Arthurs, CEO of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, outlined global challenges that photonics technologies address in energy, water, and health, and the significant lift in awareness of light-based technologies provided by observance this year of the International Year of Light (IYL 2015).

SPIE is a Founding Partner of the IYL 2015, a global initiative decreed by the United Nations to highlight to the citizens of the world the importance of light and optical technologies in their lives, for their futures, and for the development of society, Arthurs explained.

He highlighted optics and photonics energy applications such as solar energy generation and storage, inertial fusion, sensors for fossil fuels and the environment, and efficient ― and astronomy-friendly ― lighting for all.

In the pressing area of clean-water supplies, optics and photonics technologies include solar desalination, ultraviolet water purification, and photonic sensors.

Light has been key to understanding diseases since the invention of the microscope, Arthurs noted. Related technologies hold enormous potential for affordable advances such as smartphone software to detect fever or to help diagnose malaria in remote regions.

Photonics-based lighting solutions address light pollution, which in addition to thwarting astronomical studies from Earth can disrupt individuals’ circadian rhythms, depress immune systems, and increase some cancers.

Among the society’s many activities in support of IYL 2015, SPIE has funded nearly 30 outreach projects, including solar car races, a laser maze, a documentary about the history of light, making foldable microscopes with elementary school students, a traveling dark room, an ”Introduce a Girl to Science and Engineering Day,” and a laser harp, to name a few, Arthurs said.

SPIE also worked with the Chandra X-ray Center of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the International Astronomical Union to develop the Light Beyond the Bulb open-source exhibition program, and offers LaserBlox kits and training, diffraction glasses, magnifying glass classroom projects, and other resources for educators and others, he noted.

In addition to ETOP’s oral and poster presentations, attendees participated in hands-on workshops and attended an exhibition including exhibitor product demonstrations. Participants enjoyed a walking tour of Bordeaux, a trip to the beach at the Bay of Arcachon, and a banquet at a nearby vineyard. The meeting concluded with a well-attended Women in Optics panel on Thursday afternoon.

ETOP sponsors SPIE, OSA, IEEE, and ICO announced that ETOP 2017 will be held in China, and is tentatively scheduled for 24 to 26 May 2017 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang. Local organizers will be Zhejiang University, the Chinese National Steering Committee for Optics and Photonics Education, and the Chinese Optical Society.

Papers from past ETOP conferences are open access and available for free download via Proceedings of ETOP.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided more than $4 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2014.

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