Photonics boot camp offers MIT “firehose” experience Featured

Corporate, academic and government attendees immerse themselves in fundamentals at AIM Photonics Academy.
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Students from companies, including Cisco, Facebook, and Lockheed Martin, as well as from universities and the Department of Defense, came to MIT to learn photonics during the week of July 22 to 26, 2019. Photo, Denis Paiste, Materials Research Laboratory.

Professor Lionel Kimerling welcomed students in AIM Photonics Academy’s week-long boot camp to a true MIT experience: drinking water from a firehose. By the end of the program on integrated photonics, or putting light technology on chips, students agreed that AIM Academy’s combination of lectures, sessions with design software tools, lab tours, and group challenges had indeed flooded them with new information.

“Just as the transistors replaced tubes, photons will replace electrons in communication, computation, imaging and eventually learning,” Prof. Kimerling says. “MIT’s role is to create a workforce that can design and build these new technologies.”

Thirty-five students attended from companies, including Cisco, Facebook, and Lockheed Martin, as well as from universities and the Department of Defense. Many of the students had backgrounds in electrical engineering, and came to MIT to learn photonics during the week of July 22 to 26, 2019. AIM Photonics Academy’s fourth boot camp offered two tracks for the second time – one track in fundamentals and one track in design software.

Speakers came from MIT, Columbia, Dartmouth, Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Rochester, and the University of Delaware. Finisar CTO Martin Zirngibl also spoke to students, offering insights on the future of high-speed communication, imaging, and data centers.

AIM Photonics Academy launched its first edX course on photonic integrated circuits, which wrapped up in May. Close to 2,000 people registered for the course.

In an effort to help students better understand difficult concepts, MIT postdoctoral associate Erik Verlage is building a Virtual Lab of integrated photonic components, where in a game-like setting, students can manipulate components on a chip to better understand such things as how light moves around a bend, or moves from one waveguide to another. Students both in the boot camp and the online course got to try out these simulations.

“Game-like simulations allow students to experiment with components on chip in a way they would never get to do offline or with very complicated and expensive software tools,” Verlage says.

AIM Academy will roll out two more edX courses with MITx in 2019, and on October 10 and 11, will host the industry Roadmap meeting in Cambridge, where the updated Integrated Photonics System Roadmap will be released. AIM Academy will also offer a lab boot camp for engineers this coming January.

AIM Photonics Academy is the education and workforce arm of AIM Photonics, one of 14 federally funded institutes launched during the Obama administration to spur advanced manufacturing in the United States.

back to newsletterJulie Diop | Materials Research Laboratory
August 26, 2019

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