POWER team members attended Optifab, an event in Rochester, NY hosted by The International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), where they were able to share their findings and network with the local optics manufacturing community and students who are applying for jobs in the field. They expanded their sample further and met new people who are interested in interview with them so they can learn more about the skills they value and use on the job.
Students involved with POWER also had the chance to talk about the project while practicing networking. Members spoke with Optifab organizers to brainstorm other ways of charging their findings with the community.
SPIE is an international organization that connects people across disciplines to advance technologies, share information across disciplines, and support further education and career preparation relating to the science and application of light.
Project leaders Ben Zwickl and Kelly Martin were both invited to Atlanta, Georgia to present at the American Association of Physics Teachers 2017 Winter Meeting. This four-day-long meeting brings together high school and higher education faculty that have an interest in teaching physics. It gave AAPT members, colleagues, and future physicists the opportunity to participate in physics workshops, meet other physics educators, network on a national scale, learn the most recent resources and innovation, and share results from their own research.
Martin gave a talk on how teaching basic visual communication concepts can help students better understand and communicate their findings. This involves using very simple principles of design and communicating in very deliberate ways. She had originally covered this information in 2015 at Beyond the First Year Lab Conference in College Park, Maryland and due to the receptive audience, she was invited to speak at the AAPT 2017 Winter Meeting. For this later talk, she was able to present recent evidence, gathered by herself and Dr. Tracy Worrell, that showed how using certain design principles resulted in graphics that viewers found to be more enjoyable and easier to read.
Zwickl’s talk was a general overview of several recent efforts in physics and science education to focus more explicitly on developing students’ communication abilities as a core of science courses. POWER’s workforce-related research on technical and communication skills in workplaces was tied into the talk. He also served on a sub-committee of the AAPT Committee on Laboratories that developed the recommendations and led the sub-sub-committee that wrote on communication skills.
In April of 2016, POWER team leaders, Ben Zwickl and Kelly Norris Martin received an additional grant from the NSF with Matt Hora from the University of Wisconsin, for research focused on 21st century skills, which include collaboration, communication skills, problem solving, and self-regulated learning. The research, now referred to as the EMPOWER STEM project will look at employers’ perception of these skills among new hires and the degree to which new employees display these skills. It will also look at the extent students are learning and practicing 21st century skills.
This is a collaborative effort between RIT and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and will focus on STEM-related industries and educators in 2 and 4 year institutions in four major regions, Seattle, Raleigh, Denver and Houston. The goal is to develop further understanding of how industry defines and develops 21st century skills and how students and employees gain proficiency in those skills using focus groups, surveys, and studying how 21st century skills are taught.
Kirk Winans, one of the original POWER team members, has moved on to pursue his PhD in communication and rhetoric at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The program focuses on researching and describing the effects of new technology mediated communication. At RIT this past August, Kirk successfully completed his M.S. in Communication & Media Technology and defended his thesis, which looked framing by journalists and the public perception of the term “skills gap.” The paper contributed to the mission of the POWER team to further understand issues surrounding the skills gap among those in transition from school to a technical job.
Thanks to Susan Gawlowicz’s nice writeup in RIT University News, we were able to spread the word about our project to local and national media outlets.
- 12/7/15, WXXI, RIT Studies Photonics Workforce Development
- 12/7/15, Photonics.com, RIT to Study Photonics, Optics Workforce Training
- 12/3/15, Rochester Business News, $400K Grant for Optics and Photonics Education Research
- 12/3/15, ASEE First Bell, NSF Awards $400K Grant to Study Experience Needs for Photonics Careers
- 12/2/15, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, RIT will study how to teach someone photonics skills
- 12/2/15, RIT University News, Photonics Workforce Development Study
Ben Zwickl was an invited speaker at the 46th Annual APS Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics (DAMOP) conference was held June 8-12, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. His talk “Preparing students for research excellence in optics and photonics” was part of a special session on “Turning Physics Students into Physicists.”[ http://meetings.aps.org/
The POWER group continues to expand. As a part of RIT’s Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), Jarrett Vosburg and Josh Deslongchamps become the latest members to join the team. Jarrett comes to the group from the Physics Department at SUNY Geneseo, while Josh arrives as a physics and math major from Texas State.
Jarrett joins third-year Physics major, Javier Olivera, on a project researching problem solving among graduate-level research students in engineering and the physical sciences. Josh teams up with Kingston Chen, also a third-year physics major, studying symbolic and computational math use at the graduate-level. Although these projects have a workforce focus, they build on a foundation of ideas from physics education research (PER). Kingston becomes the latest RIT student on the team, uniting with Javier and recent RIT physics grad Michael Rinkus. These members are sure to have an impact as they study the links between undergraduate preparation and the photonics workforce.