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QCC and WPI Prepare a Pathway to the Future through a New Integrated Photonics Lab

January, 2018
  • From left: Susan Mailman, Owner and President of Coghlin Electrical Contractors, Inc. and Coghlin Network Services, Inc. and QCC Chair of the Board of Trustees, QCC President Dr. Luis G. Pedraja and COO Stephen Marini.
    From left: Susan Mailman, Owner and President of Coghlin Electrical Contractors, Inc. and Coghlin Network Services, Inc. and QCC Chair of the Board of Trustees, QCC President Dr. Luis G. Pedraja and COO Stephen Marini.
  • Dr. Pedraja and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.
    Dr. Pedraja and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.

Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative grant awarded to collegiate partnership

On January 11, 2018, Quinsigamond Community College’s (QCC) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s (WPI) partnership was strengthened with the awarding of a $4 million Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2) grant by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, to support the emerging and future technology of integrated photonics through the launch of an AIM Photonics Academy Lab for Education & Application Prototypes (LEAP). This is the second LEAP in the Commonwealth.

The Lt. Governor relayed the news of the award and partnership to a packed house of legislators, industry and academic leaders at WPI’s campus center.

“This is a collaborative effort of Federal partners, our state dollars and then of course here with the folks at QCC and WPI,” Lt. Gov. Polito said to the assembled crowd.

Photonics is a technology that allows for a faster transfer of data than traditional electronic circuits. The technology is used in a vast array of industries and applications such as telecommunications, data storage, flat screen TVs, radar and autonomous vehicles. 

The new LEAP facility is being developed as a collaboration between AIM Photonics, AIM Academy, QCC, WPI, the Mass Tech Collaborative through the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2), and the Department of Defense.  The first LEAP facility is located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is home to AIM Photonics Academy. The Academy’s mission is to provide a skilled workforce for the integrated photonics industry.

These LEAP facilities are designed to be a pipeline from Boston to Rochester, NY in order to foster photonics education, research, and workforce development that will meet the needs of the industry now and in the future.

“What sets this (LEAP) apart from MIT is that it has a connection to a community college,” Lt. Gov. Polito said. “I’m really happy that WPI can be a catalyst along with Quinsigamond for this innovation hub of connectivity in Central Massachusetts.”

WPI’s President Dr. Laurie Leshin and QCC’s President Dr. Luis G. Pedraja both touted the strong partnerships the two institutions have shared and their excitement to help bring this innovative technology to students and area companies.

“We’ve had a special partnership with Quinsigamond Community College for more than half a century,” President Leshin said. “Putting our assets together is invaluable.”

“We’ve had a long history of collaboration,” President Pedraja said. “This is an exciting time. This opportunity to be a partner with WPI and LEAP will help our students for the future. We are truly training our students for the jobs and the technology of the future.”

Jacob Longacre, QCC Assistant Professor in Photonics, described the vital role QCC plays in its partnership with WPI, noting that the college’s robust photonics, engineering and manufacturing programs give students a foundation that enables them to go directly to the workforce or continue their education.

QCC students will have the opportunity to learn how testing of integrated photonics works, in addition to enhancing their knowledge of the overarching concepts of photonics through hands-on applications at the LEAP facility. This enables students seeking an Associate Degree a much broader opportunity for advanced learning about photonics by working with WPI and area companies. Students will also be able to take a certificate program and have a comprehensive set of skills they can immediately use in the workforce.

“We have a very broad spectrum of students and that is where we come into this, as a gateway to people, students and industry who are not fully cognizant of how this (photonics) works,” he said. “We’re there to present to them and to get them to a point where they can fully utilize LEAP and learn what they can do in these areas. We’re a gateway to educate and inform. ”

The goals of the LEAP facility at WPI are:

  • to teach integrated photonics manufacturing practice with the goal of building a skilled workforce at all levels; from technicians with Associate Degrees through Ph.D.s, performing research and developing new applications for the technology
  • to provide small and medium-size enterprises technician training and certification
  • to provide local start-ups and small to medium-sized manufacturers with access to state-of-the-art equipment run by skilled workers, and to help companies prototype and scale up new product designs using integrated photonics technology
  • to support the AIM Multi-Project Wafer (MPW) and Test, Assembly and Packaging (TAP) hubs

The LEAP facility will be housed on the WPI campus and will be utilized by students from both institutions, in addition to faculty and industry partners.

“LEAP allows us to help companies create and bring to market tomorrow’s technologies, while simultaneously ensuring that today’s students are trained and ready to work with these new technologies when they complete a certificate or degree program,” Dr. Pedraja said, adding, “Think of how far we’ve come. This is an incredible time.”

Learn more about QCC's Photonics program

Jacob Longacre, QCC Assistant Professor in Photonics
Dadbeh Bigonahy,Professor of Engineering & Sciences/Coordinator of the Engineering Program.
James Haffernan, Professor of Electronics Engineering Technology/Coordinator of the Electronics Engineering Technology Programs.