NEBHE Receives NSF Funds to Teach Photonics Using Real-Life Problems from Industry

March 16, 2007

BOSTON, MA—The New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) was awarded a three-year, $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund Project PHOTON PBL.

The grant is the fourth in a series of NSF curriculum and professional development grants awarded to NEBHE that strengthen photonics curriculum in secondary schools and community colleges in New England. The new grant employs problem-based learning (PBL) in which students solve real “challenges” presented by industry and research partners.

PBL has been used extensively in medical education since the early 1970s and has been widely adopted in other fields including business, law and education. Now, it is beginning to emerge as an alternative to the traditional lecture-based approach in engineering and technology education.

The partners expected to submit challenges include: Boston University, California State Polytechnic University Pomona, the Penn State Electro-Optics Center, Flemming Tinker LLC and PVI Systems of Connecticut, IPG Photonics Corp. of Massachusetts, Photomachining Inc. of New Hampshire and Photodigm Inc. of Texas.

“Problem-based learning offers a vital enhancement to traditional instructional methodologies as it prepares educators and their students for today and tomorrow’s high technology workplace,” said NEBHE President and CEO Evan S. Dobelle.

The PHOTON PBL project will hold an Educators Workshop this summer, at which partnering high schools and community colleges will work with problem-based learning strategies to prepare to field-test the first set of challenges in the fall. After the field tests are completed, the “challenges” will be disseminated to high school and community college technology educators throughout the nation.

“Students will gain the skills that are crucial in a rapidly changing technology field, challenge partners will receive national exposure and we’ll all benefit from the development of a pool of young problem-solvers,” said the project’s principle investigator, Fenna Hanes of NEBHE.

PHOTON PBL is funded through the NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program. Co-principal investigators are Three Rivers Community College professor Judy Donnelly, Central Connecticut State University associate dean Nicholas Massa, University of Connecticut professor Marijke Kehrhahn and Roger Williams University professor Richard Audet. For more information, click here.


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