Lasers Photonics Systems


Prior Learning Assessment

Lasers and Photonics

Description of Course: Condensed matter physics including issues in solid state physics, laser physics, laser light, laser components and systems and measurements covered in this course.

The second upper level college course that I will apply my learning experiences to are the expected learning outcomes from Norfolk State University, Lasers and Photonics. Bell Labs is known for revolutions. In 1947 it was the transistor. Today it is photonics. Called the second silicon revolution, optical fiber systems are in an explosive state of development, reminiscent of the earlier days of the electronics industry. Over the past two decades, since fiber optic communications first began to appear, the carrying capacity of fiber has increased at a faster rate than Moore's law. (Brown, 2000, ¶ 1)

Bell labs has since become part of the new Alcatel-Lucent innovation engine. This observation about bandwidth, the information carrying capacity, was first made by Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore in a 1965 paper. The current trend has continued for more than half century and is not expected to stop for a decade at least and perhaps much longer.

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Photonics is the study, research and development of equipment and concepts used in the transmission of critical information through light, including fiber optics and laser technologies. In a fiber optic communications system, photonics consist of the lasers, optics, fiber optic cable, switches and computers that interpret, alter and move light signals. Optics are a small part of the whole.

I believe the optical communications revolution actually began when the laser was invented in 1960. The July 22, 1960 issue of Electronics magazine introduced its account on Theodore Maiman's demonstration of the first laser by saying “Usable communications channels in the electromagnetic spectrum may be extended by development of an experimental optical-frequency amplifier.” (Hayes, 2005, p. 8). The American physicist Theodore Maiman demonstrated the generation of a pulse of coherent red light by means of a solid ruby, the first laser. The idea however, dates back to the days of Albert Einstein. Serious work on optical communications had to wait for the development of the laser.

While in my position as ECPI College of Technology Coordinator of Fiber Optics Programs and Infotec Fiber Optic Training Specialist (Document 1), I developed a particular course called Certified Fiber Optics Technician (FOT) (Document 21). The reason I started development of the FOT course was because up to this point in the fiber optics industry there was only one level of fiber optics certification - Certified Fiber Optics Installer (FOI). When I was instructing students and contractors on the correct methods and procedures to both assemble, install and test the fiber optics communication links, after they were finished with this particular level of certification, I would always get the same question from students, “I want to continue with my fiber optics training, what is the next level of certification in the industry.” So I took on the challenge of developing the next level of industry fiber optics certification training, and I called it Certified Fiber Optics Technician. I developed the knowledge and practical skills competencies, and I co-authored the Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) very first FOT written examination (Document 28). Once I completed the fiber optics technician training course for ECPI College of Technology and Infotec (Document 27), I piloted the very first course in our classroom laboratory specifically designed and built to support our fiber optics programs. Since I developed, wrote, and piloted the first course, I was the very first Electronics Technicians Association Certified Fiber Optics Technician in the country (Document 8). In addition, I was the very first ETA approved Certification Administrator (Document 17) for their Certified Fiber Optics Technician program. Since then I have continued to provide updates, revisions, and corrections to the program as a member of the ETA Fiber Optics Examination Committee.

This FOT course provides my students with the knowledge and skills needed to certify and troubleshoot fiber optic cable networks accurately and efficiently. My Certified Fiber Optics Technician program provides a detailed, hands-on instruction and practice of fiber optic troubleshooting techniques. Successful completion of the program results in the trainee being certified as a Fiber Optics Technician from the Electronics Technicians Association. All my programs are endorsed by Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) (Document 2), a distinction that recognizes the schools' high quality. The ETA believes the ECPI and Infotec programs are suitable for national models for other training companies and schools.

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I have studied and implicitly learned the importance of using practical skills to enhance knowledge learned in the classroom. To assist in the growth and certifying of individuals, contractors, and college students I built a fiber optics laboratory at our college. This laboratory was built so that individuals, contractors, and college students could easily certify and troubleshoot different cable systems with a combination of fibers, connectors, and splices. These cable systems are modeled on the most commonly occurring problems in the fiber optics industry.

I adopt a hands-on approach to teaching lasers and photonics in order to spark the creativity and motivation of my students. On account of the uniqueness of my fiber optics programs, in the laboratory of both my Certified Fiber Optics Installer (Document 20) and Certified Fiber Optics Technician (Document 21) programs, students learn and demonstrate how to prepare and calibrate both the laser diodes and light emitting diodes - Fiber Optic Source (FOS) along with the receiver photodiode - Fiber Optic Meter (FOM). They practice how to measure optical source output powers. Also, students practice how to properly perform an end-to-end attenuation test and bi-directional link test using both the optical source and optical receiver. In addition, I teach my students the importance of determining whether the fiber optic link to be tested is multimode or single-mode, determine the appropriate wavelengths that should be measured, and if both wavelengths are to be tested, the student technician should test all of the links at one wavelength, change the settings to the other wavelength, and test all links again at the new wavelength. Finally, each student learns and must ensure that both the optical source and optical receiver are setup correctly in accordance with the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and Electronics Industries Alliance (EIA) standards (TIA/EIA-568-B, 2001).

Both my Certified Fiber Optics Installer and Certified Fiber Optics Technician programs use an innovative educational approach to encourage independent research, teamwork, and greater student motivation though the solving of real-world fiber optic problems. My program uses this approach to develop problem-solving skills and increase student motivation.

I learned early on in my career in fiber optics how important it is to ensure that I teach the knowledge and skills students need so they will be able to do the high-tech work in the growing fields of optics and photonics. The prerequisite course requirement that I developed for Certified Fiber Optics Technician (CFOT) is our Certified Fiber Optics Installer (CFOI) course (Document 7). In my fiber optics installer course, the students are offered, learn, and practically apply several modules including: nature and properties of light, light sources and laser safety, basic geometrical optics, basic physical optics, lasers, optical detectors and human vision, optical waveguides and fibers, fiber optic telecommunications, photonic devices for imaging and display, and basic principles and applications of fiber optic networks. All along, the educational courses are constantly being revised to meet the changing demands of the optoelectronics industry.

From my work with lasers and photonics, I learned about different methods to achieve the very best in fiber optic communications technology. Moreover, brewing in the photonics industry is a revolutionary technology called Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing (CWDM) and Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM), which allows the carrying capacity of optical fiber to ramp up at an astonishing rate. WDM technologies have been in use since the 1980s, but have recently gained popularity with many different carriers. I teach my students that DWDM uses individual segments of the optical spectrum to multiplex signals on a fiber. The wavelength division multiplexing route has turned out to have a great potential. My students learn about how multiple wavelength laser diode systems and new types of fiber were developed to carry the multiple wavelength signals without crosstalk.

I just recently read an industry white paper from NEC Corporation of America entitled CWDM Technology, Applications, and Operations (NEC Corporation of America, 2007). CWDM is becoming a very attractive solution for carriers that need to upgrade their networks to accommodate current or future bandwidth requirements while minimizing the role of the valuable fiber strands in the network. My students fully understand that dealing with the high volumes of data that are coming off optical fibers will present a big challenge to both the laser and the photonics. Fortunately, wavelength division multiplexing eases that task since each wavelength can be processed simultaneously by different circuits.

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My experience in fiber optics technology taught me how to apply both my knowledge and principles of learning to my students about lasers and photonics. I learned a great deal about how to research and formulate a plan of action using documented fiber optics resources as shown by my substantial reading bibliography (Document 29). I have used all that knowledge and applied it in all of the following instances.

In 2005, I was acknowledged for reviewing, providing feedback, providing all the standards, and test equipment in the development of the textbook, Fiber Optics Installer and Technician Guide, Wiley, 2005 ISBN: 0-7821-4390-3 (Woodward and Husson, 2007) (Document 31). I developed and piloted the Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Certified Fiber Optics Technician and Certified Fiber Optics Designer (Document 22) programs. I wrote the particular courses, established knowledge sets, practical skill competencies, and willingly helped to prepare the industry certification examinations that are the standard throughout the country (Document 28). I have developed over the past eight years knowledge and hands-on training competencies for the Electronics Technicians Association, International's Fiber Optics Installer (FOI), Fiber Optic Technician (FOT), Fiber Optics Designer (FOD), and Data Cabling Installer (DCI) certifications (Document 25). I am a member of an international committee of subject matter experts that review and approve these training competencies (Document 28). This past year I became a member of SPIE - The International Society of Optical Engineering (Document 3). In addition, I have written many of the ETA certification examination test questions used to test the individuals knowledge as part of the ETA fiber and copper certification programs (Document 27).

In conclusion, I have learned much from my experience in lasers and photonics. Through my fiber optics experience, I have demonstrated that I am a life-long learner by integrating my experience with new theories and concepts. I have exhibited self-directed learning by conducting independent studies of written and oral resources, and integrating these into my curriculum decisions. I believe that my current experiential learning background is that of a typical senior-level optical engineering student. Based on the experiences and knowledge, I've gained through my last 30 years in electronics and optics, I am respectfully requesting three semester hours of OEN 340 Lasers and Photonics term credit from Norfolk State University.


Brown, C. (2000, January 31). Bell Labs: riding a photonics wave. Electronic Engineering Times Online, Special Issue. Retrieved December 16, 2007, from

Hayes, J. (2005). Fiber Optics Technician's Manual (3rd ed.) (p. 8). Clifton Park, NY: Cengage Delmar.

NEC Corporation of America. CWDM Technology and Applications. (2007). Irving, TX: Optical Network Systems Division. Systems Engineering White Paper. NEC Corporation of America.

TIA/EIA-568-B, Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard. (2001). Arlington, VA: TIA/EIA-568-B.

Woodward, W. R., & Husson, E. B. (2005). Fiber Optics Installer and Technician Guide. (1st ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Document 1. ECPI College of Technology and Infotec Business Cards.

Document 2. Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Membership Certificate.

Document 3. Society of Optical Engineers (SPIE) Membership Certificate.

Document 7. Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Certified Fiber Optics Installer Certification.

Document 8. Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Certified Fiber Optics Technician Certification.

Document 17. Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA-I) Certification Administrator for Certified Fiber Optics Technician.

Document 20. ECPI College of Technology/Infotec Certified Fiber Optics Installer (FOI) Lecture Syllabus.

Document 21. ECPI College of Technology/Infotec Certified Fiber Optics Technician (FOT) Lecture Syllabus.

Document 22. ECPI College of Technology/Infotec Certified Fiber Optics Designer (FOD) Lecture Syllabus.

Document 25. Letter of Verification from Teresa Maher, President of Electronics Technicians Association, International.

Document 27. Letter of Verification from Ms. Ann Perry, Executive Director of Infotec.

Document 28. Letter of Verification from Mr. William R. Woodward, Chairman of Electronics Technicians Association.

Document 29. Substantial Reading Bibliography including both textbooks and telecommunications industry standards.

Document 31. Acknowledgements Page in Woodward, W. R., & Husson, E. B. (2005). Fiber Optics Installer and Technician Guide. (1st ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.