Indian Hills Insight September 2018

by Kevin Pink

Indian Hills Information Director


With the reduction in funding from other sources, grants have become increasingly important in allowing Indian Hills Community College to continue to offer the kind of educational experience it has been delivering to students for more than 50 years.  Those grants have been awarded in different dollar amounts, some large and some smaller, and have been received from a myriad of different federal, state and local sources.

All of the grants have been welcomed by the different areas at Indian Hills that have benefitted from the increase in their available funds.  “At IHCC, grants fund unique projects that are beyond the reach of our college budget,” said Martha Wick, Associate Dean, Governmental Affairs.  “They support educational opportunities for students, encourage innovation and facilitate grant-related community partnerships.”

Indian Hills President Dr. Marlene Sprouse points out that grants have long been integral to the growth of the college.  “Grants have allowed Indian Hills to construct facilities in several locations to meet physical space and program needs.  They have been crucial in helping us keep our equipment and technology up-to-date and in offering programs like Student Support Services and Upward Bound that assist students we might not otherwise be able to help.  More than once we have been awarded grants to run programs named as national centers.”

One of the latest grants received by IHCC is from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for $598,040 to develop photonics education in Iowa’s rural secondary schools, giving students a chance to pursue a career in a field they had little or no exposure to previously.

Photonics is the technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy, according to Greg Kepner, Director of the Midwest Photonics Education Center, which was established by IHCC in 2014 through the NSF Advanced Technological Education program.  Photonics involves cutting-edge uses of lasers, optics, fiber-optics and electro-optical devices in numerous and diverse fields of technology.

Kepner says the new grant will allow the center to “build upon its previous efforts to expand the pipeline of qualified photonics technicians.”  Because they operate on tight budgets, rural school districts are not likely to have the means to hire a dedicated photonics teacher or equip a photonics laboratory.  Part of the grant will allow for photonics kits to be distributed in the schools.

“For this project,” Kepner says, “we will offer a dual credit photonics course to rural Iowa high school students via a hybrid online learning platform.  The course will be offered over two high school semesters or 36 weeks.  The year-long format will ensure that students take part in sufficient instructional time to obtain both high school and college credit.”

To further its impact on secondary teachers and students, IHCC will offer two-day symposiums for secondary school science and technology teachers in southern and central Iowa.

“We have raised the awareness of secondary teachers and students about photonics, photonics careers and laser applications in advanced manufacturing since our photonics education center opened,” Kepner says.  “Now, this grant will allow us to really encourage students to explore the photonics technician pathway.”

(This is a monthly column, provided by Indian Hills Community College)