The curricula of the Electrical Engineering and Information Technology and Lasers and Photonics courses contain numerous practical elements such as internships, practical projects and theses in order to provide students with an excellent education not only in theory, but also in practice. These practical elements basically include intensive supervision of the students, which is accompanied by personal contact between supervisors and students. Due to the corona pandemic, these important practical elements can only be carried out to a limited extent or not at all, as contact restrictions, distance regulations and a maximum number of people per room must be adhered to. An important part of the course is therefore lost for the students or has to be postponed for a long time.
During the winter semester, a model test was carried out at the Chair of Photonics and Terahertz Technology in order to be able to offer practical teaching despite Corona: Remote teaching in the laser laboratory. Contactless supervision of a practical project and partial supervision of a master's thesis was carried out using several digital communication devices. The pilot project aimed to achieve virtual support that was equivalent to personal support. Students are in the laboratory (in compliance with the corona rules) to carry out their practical experiment there. You have "digital laser protection goggles" at your disposal, with the help of which the ego perspective of the students is transmitted to the supervisor via the network and a voice connection is established (top left: student in the laboratory, top right: supervisor in the office). In this way, students can discuss the current status of the experiment with the supervisor live during their laboratory internship. It has been found that it is advantageous to provide a tablet PC as a further communication platform, which transmits a live image of the entire work area. Supervisors can draw comments and sketches on the components in this live image (images below). In this way, excellent communication with detailed explanations can be achieved, as if supervisors were present in the laboratory.
By using this remote teaching concept, the practical project of the pilot project could be carried out with very little contact. In a three-day internship, the students should measure and analyze the effects of optical components on the polarization of laser light. In some cases, intensive support was provided, but phases of independent work were also planned. To be on the safe side, the supervisor was present in his office during the implementation. The students could either report via the permanently existing voice connection, or it was agreed that, for example, a digital meeting would take place every full hour via the communication channels mentioned so that questions and progress could be discussed. Personal contacts were only made when the systems were handed over and when the students visited and opened the laboratory rooms, as well as during a discussion about programming the laboratory automation, which took place on a PC without a network connection. In some cases, the support staff was even able to benefit from the digital possibilities, as screen sharing, for example, made live demonstrations via MATLAB more visible to everyone involved. With appropriate preparations and the newly gained experience, future practical projects can also take place completely contactless (apart from the material and key handover).
The supervision of a master’s thesis also benefited from this concept: The supervisor was able to avoid contact entirely by working from the home office and still support the student Marlon Tranelis constructively in his experiments in the laboratory by giving him a good Get a picture of the current state of the experiment and give helpful tips and analyzes. Marlon Tranelis also praises the concept: "The possibilities for communication," remote maintenance "or support and discussion from a distance [...] of course also offer a great solution for the problem of support and cooperation in corona operations in the current situation. In my opinion, glasses are already very useful in terms of their usability, especially for a completely new first-generation product. You have to make sure that they are set correctly and that they sit correctly, but then fine mechanical and precise work is possible without much getting used to. "The" digital laser safety glasses "are available at the chair because they were developed there as part of an ongoing startup university spin-off project.
Further practical projects as described above or even putting together “practical packages” that the students could take home with them for a few days would be conceivable for the future. This would include materials for experiments and the digital components for supervision. The concept can also be used in other laboratories without a laser. In the summer semester, the teaching company could benefit from the possibilities for contactless practical support described here by means of further model tests.