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Project Description

Remote Optical Circuits Knowledge (ROCK) Laboratories

The ROCK project is an NSF funded project that aims to create remotely-controlled optical circuits laboratory experiments. We expect this project to help introduce hands-on laboratory for distance education. While hands-on laboratory practices promise an engaging experience, effective teaching time can potentially be increased through the usage of remote-controlling capabilities of equipment and systems: since the setup will be always ready for demonstrations, the bulk of a laboratory session can be devoted to the more important fundamental concepts on the measurements, setups, system integrations, and component characteristics. A group of faculty from three universities is joining effort to develop this challenging research project (Dr. Driss Benhaddou (University of Houston - UH), Dr. Deniz Gurkan (UH), Dr. Alan Mickelson (Colorado University Boulder - CU), Dr. Frank Barnes (CU), Dr. Zhonqi Pan (University of Louisiana Lafayette). Recently Dr. Phyllis R. Nelson, Dr. Ertan Salik, R. Frank Smith from CalPoly Pomona are joining the efforts to this project.

We propose to use remote control techniques to provide a complete set of laboratories covering optical circuits. We plan to implement laboratories of sufficient generality such that subsets of adaptations of this set of laboratories may be used for numerous lower, upper division undergraduate as well as for graduate courses and a wide variety of disciplines of technology and engineering. The key concept here is to introduce modularity so that resources can be used by different universities in different programs. Laboratory resources are being developed at both the university of Colorado and the university of Houston. Future implementations will be developed at the collaborating universities.

We are currently offering these courses at the engineering technology department at the University of Houston and the electrical and computer engineering department at CU. A major component of our work will be outcome assessment and the continuous improvement model that will be used to adapt the laboratories to provide an effective hands-on experience to the students in different setting.

We expect this project to generate a body of knowledge that will contribute to our knowledge of teaching of optical circuits, the use of distance learning techniques for laboratories in general and optical circuits laboratories in particular, and our ability to assess the learning process. Optical circuits is a field that we must study in some detail to determine its fundamentals and then find a set of experiments and exercises that will emphasize these basics. Although distance learning is an instructional method that is not usually associated with engineering laboratories, the need in our project is to come up with a good laboratory technique for students using only the distant environment. We also need to understand the separation between the cause of deficiencies in student learning, whether they are due to inherent deficiencies in the distance learning technique or in implementation.

Our research will impact several aspects of our society affected by the educational system. The cost of education is now becoming a barrier to universal education. Distance learning can provide an economic alternative to in-class learning even when the student population is primarily located on campus. In a commuter university setting, distance learning can have both an economic and environmental impact, reducing the time spent in needless transit which in turns conserves precious resources. In the context of serving those who must work to support themselves, a population which is disproportionally a minority one, distance learning can provide the possibility for minority students to obtain their educational goals while working.

If you're interested in trying our labs or joining effort with this team please do not hesitate to contact one of the team members. We will be happy to help you.