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INNOVATIVE TRAINING AND EDUCATION FOR LARGE LASER INFRASTRUCTURES
Start date: Sep 1, 2015, End date: Aug 31, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The present project takes place in the context of large laser infrastructures, some under developments and some already operational at several sites across Europe. The Extreme Light Infrastructures (ELI) all rely on state of the art ultra-high intensity laser technologies. Three locations, namely Prague in the Czech republic (ELI-Beamlines), Szeged in Hungary (ELI-Alps) and Bucarest in Romania (ELI-NP) have been designated to welcome these unique and complementary centers to be constructed and operated as facilities for the scientific and private community with an investment volume exceeding 850 M€. A fourth infrastructure (Apollon) of the same type as the ELI centers is also being developed in Paris at Ecole Polytechnique. The design, construction and operation of these large-scale laser infrastructures require highly educated personnel in various domains. We evaluate that each site has to recruit technical human resources among technicians, engineers and researchers. Altogether, the need for high level skills represent a pool of 500 to 600 people. Additionally, the laser sources and beam lines will be delivered through public procurement either partly or entirely by private companies mainly originating from the EU. The supplemental industrial workload generated by the ELI programs will require companies to hiring several hundreds of specifically trained employees. On top of that, European laser facilities already operational experience turnover which target the same pool of trained professionals. Each country in the EU proposes standard curricula covering optics, lasers and photonics aimed at educating a rather stable flow of students. However, the sudden need engendered by the ELI programs exceeds the training potential of our nations in these specific topics. Even if we setup an emergency program at several universities, it will still take at least 8 years to train a high school student at a doctoral level. We are therefore facing an extended skill deficit that might endanger the actual implementation of these large-scale infrastructures. It is the aim of this project to bring together strategic partners able to propose short-term solutions covering the immediate needs identified by the consortium. The consortium has been naturally created with partners experiencing the skills deficit (5 major laser facilities) and 5 partners experts in education, training and innovative pedagogical techniques (Universities, training center, ‘serious games’ company). The main objective of the project is to mitigate the above mentioned massive skills shortage in a time scale compatible with the infrastructures roadmap. As a first priority, we intend to develop a global laser safety program with certification at the European level. An additional laser-based nuclear radiation safety program will also be elaborated. Beyond the personnel safety, the partners have identified a large deficit in skills and knowledge about optics, lasers, photonics and associated technologies. We therefore propose a pedagogical approach that has been never used so far in laser and optics education (we are not aware of a similar approach in other domain either) aiming at training students and professionals at the highest level in very short terms. The safety programs development will consist in building curricula at different levels and, in a second phase, produce the teaching material based on the agreed curricula. The challenge here is to come up with a program that is compliant with national workers law and labor codes and succeed to obtain certification at the European level. The revolutionary approach we propose here will be implemented in the context of topical education in optics, lasers and photonics. Our pedagogical concept will use information technologies. Two types of actions are considered. We will develop a library of small programs aiming at simulating complex physical effects occurring in laser or optical devices significantly easing the understanding of the underlying physics. The other action considered as a key action will use the advanced technologies of video games for educational purposes and develop a complete training tool. The trainee will be immersed in a virtual 3D laboratory (Oculus mask) where he will have to build and test optical or laser devices. Augmented reality will help him assemble the proper components by explaining, on demand, the properties and uses of these components. Immediately, he will be able to build simple devices while understanding the physical concepts involved. Trainings will consists in following scenarii elaborated by laser physicists to implement in the 3D virtual world the experiment or the optical device. Evaluation will also be provided. Beyond the mitigation of the partner’s skill deficit, we foresee a large impact of our safety certification and a broad dissemination of our novel training approach through 3D virtual immersion and augmented reality.
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