Lehigh Adopts Optiwave Program
OTTAWA -- Lehigh University launched their new multi-million dollar Center for Optical Technologies in 2000. Since then, their fully developed program includes optical communications, optics, photonics, and optoelectronics. Lehigh has now adopted the Optiwave for Educators program, which allows teachers to incorporate Optiwave’s industry standard simulation software tools into curriculum and research.
Adoption of photonic-related simulation software tools in the classroom is a relatively new venture. Professor Alastair McAulay, of the Center for Optical Technologies, extrapolated from previous experience with electronic semiconductors, “In electronics, we were using software applications for electronic VSLI, and it proved to be a very effective way to teach electronic engineers about electronic circuits. Now we can make the same thing happen for optics.”
Professor McAulay is using Optiwave’s OptiBPM and OptiFDTD simulation software tools for teaching his course, “Introduction to Integrated Optics.“ He has been teaching at Lehigh’s Electrical Engineering department for the past ten years, and was the chair of the department for two consecutive terms. Professor McAulay’s students use Optiwave software tools for theoretical illustration and class assignments. When asked about the initial reaction of students when shown the software tools, he reports, “The students are very interested, because the undergraduates have to go and get a job the following year. They feel that understanding how people in industry design the actual components will be valuable for them. Also, for those going to graduate school and working with a professor in the optics area, they have skills that will immediately be useful in their projects.”
Professor McAulay appreciates the value of Optiwave software as a ‘virtual lab’, or a low cost alternative to buying equipment. “There’s no question that simulation software is much easier to use. If you want to learn about integrated optics by building the component, each component requires a huge effort. You have to have a clean room, lab, … It’s a lot of work. Whereas, the simulation tools illustrate what the components do and how they behave. Simulation software is a very cost effective way of learning about integrated optics and networking.”
“I am a great believer that this is the way of the future,” Professor McAulay remarked. “I believe Optiwave is on the right track. Their software is extremely friendly for students to use.”