LILLINGTON — Second-year students in the Laser and Photonics Technology program at Central Carolina Community College’s Harnett Main Campus recently attended the 2020 SPIE Photonics West Convention in San Francisco. SPIE is an international society promoting an interdisciplinary approach to the science and application of light. Photonics West is one of the world’s largest photonics exhibitions with over 1,300 companies presenting and over 23,000 professionals attending.
Attending from the Laser program were students Xan Bayles, John Brooks, and Angel Gonzalez-Aguilar from Harnett County, Cassidy Harris from Moore County, and Laser and Photonics Technology Lead Instructor Gary Beasley. Touring exhibits at Photonics West, they were able to observe the latest technology in the Laser and Photonics industry. At each booth, companies would spend time discussing their new products in great detail, explaining how it worked and how it could be used.
While in San Francisco, the group also took time to tour the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Labs (LLNL) in Livermore, Calif. At NIF, research is ongoing to create self-sustaining fusion energy using 192 laser beams housed in an area the size of three football fields. The 192 laser beams focus on a target smaller than a BB-gun pellet to create the fusion energy. Joining the tour with current CCCC Laser students were previous CCCC Laser graduates who are presently employed by LLNL — Daren Hart (2006), Al Delong (2015), David Pope (2016), Darin Anderson (2018), and Seth Kuenzler (2018). Al Delong conducted the tour of the NIF.
This year, the students were also able to tour two additional R&D labs at LLNL. They toured the new concepts development lab and Special Fiber Draw Tower R&D lab. Each of these labs is doing cutting edge research in “High Energy Lasers.” David Pope and Seth Kuenzler joined the CCCC visitors for tours of these areas.
During lunch after the tour, the previous Laser graduates discussed with the current Laser students what it is like working at the LLNL National Ignition Facility.
Central Carolina Community College has a student chapter of SPIE in its Photonics curriculum. The conference trip was partly funded through the student chapter, and through LASER-TEC, a National Science Foundation (NSF) ATE grant in which the CCCC Laser program participates. Photonics is the study of the use of light, such as lasers, for industrial and other purposes.
In addition to attending the conference, participants had opportunities to network with colleagues, conference speakers, and vendors, and to expand their knowledge and understanding of the field of optics and photonics, as well as new and exciting photonics technologies.