IRSC to Establish Laser and Fiber Optics Education Center for Southeast U.S.


Program funded by prestigious $2.9 million national grant

FORT PIERCE, FL (July 30, 2013) – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced the award of a prestigious $2.9 million grant to Indian River State College to establish a highly sophisticated Lasers and Fiber Optics Regional Center to help meet the national need for skilled laser and fiber optics (LFO) technicians. In partnership with a network of ten colleges and more than 253 companies, IRSC will lead the regional initiative to develop and deliver training in lasers and fiber optics throughout the Southeast. Workforce projections identify a national need for over 1,500 of these very specialized technicians, while the present output of US colleges is about 350 each year. LFO technicians repair and maintain equipment which have lasers or fiber optic sensors, this includes medical equipment such as MRI’s, Internet and telephone processing systems, and industrial applications. The program will serve as a gateway to high-skill, high-wage employment in new industries after two-years of technical training.

“There is an urgent need to ramp up the production of laser and fiber optics technicians to satisfy the high demand, maintain our world leadership and create high-paying jobs. The Lasers and Fiber Optics Regional Center will serve as a model of best practices for training programs throughout the Southeast to create a pipeline of highly-skilled technicians,” said Dr. Edwin R. Massey, IRSC President.

IRSC has a strong track record of training laser and fiber optics technicians, graduating 126 LFO technicians since 2005 and operating a highly successful Photonics Institute which provides training in technologies applicable to biomedicine, life sciences, remote sensing, and information technology.

“Training in lasers and fiber optics opens doors in new high-tech manufacturing, providing the skills needed for advancement in the 21st Century, much as traditional manufacturing expertise was a valuable asset in the past. Knowledge of lasers and fiber optics will provide unprecedented opportunities as these technologies expand, support development of new products and companies and a strong economy,” said Dr. Chrys Panayiotou, Principal Investigator for the Lasers and Fiber Optics Center and IRSC Professor of Electrical Engineering.

For the past eight years, the College has been a partner of OP-TEC, the NSF/ATE National Center for Optics and Photonics Education in the development of training modules in optical imaging and solar energy technology. IRSC is also collaborating with Corning Fiber Optical Systems for training in the latest fiber optic technologies.

“IRSC’s successful partnership with industry leaders at the state and national level was an important factor in our attainment of this competitive grant,” Dr. Massey said.

Goals of the Laser and Fiber Optic Center will include evaluation of the industry’s training needs, creation of an Industrial Advisory Board, identification of LFO specializations at each partner college, development of training programs, outreach to middle and high school STEM teachers, and recruitment of veterans and minorities for training. The Laser and Fiber Optic Center will be based at the IRSC Brown Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Main Campus in Fort Pierce.

For more information about laser and fiber optic education at IRSC, contact Dr. Chrys Panayiotou, principal investigator, at

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