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Proceedings Paper • Open Access

Thematic course design for an undergraduate photonics engineering course
Author(s): Barry L. Shoop

Paper Abstract

The traditional approach to undergraduate engineering course design is to first present underlying theoretical concepts in the course curriculum and then subsequently apply these theoretical concepts to system-level applications. A traditional photonics engineering course, for example, first reviews electromagnetic field theory, addressing essential concepts from geometrical and wave optics followed by an investigation of the interaction of photons with materials. Building upon these fundamental principles, the students then study the operating principles and design considerations of photoemitters, photodetectors, optical waveguides, and optical modulators. Individual devices are then combined in the design, construction and testing of a system – an example being a fiber optic communication link. This approach is often frustrating for the students because it is the applications that motivated them to study the subject and in many cases they have lost focus and interest well-before the applications are covered. This challenge can be overcome by deliberate course design where relevant thematic applications are introduced early in the course and routinely revisited as a referent. This approach has been shown to effectively motivate student-centric, inquiry-based learning. This thematic course design framework was applied to an undergraduate photonics engineering course,1,2 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where an emphasis was placed on inquiry-based investigation of a wavelength division multiplexing communication system introduced during the first lesson of the course and subsequently revisited throughout the remainder of the course. The underlying theory necessary to understand foundational concepts, device behavior and subsystem operation was presented in a just-in-time fashion.

Paper Details

Date Published: 5 June 2009
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 9666, 11th Education and Training in Optics and Photonics Conference, 966614 (5 June 2009); doi: 10.1117/12.2207967
Show Author Affiliations
Barry L. Shoop, United States Military Academy (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9666:
11th Education and Training in Optics and Photonics Conference
K. Alan Shore, Editor(s)

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