College News

Former CCCC student returns to give back to class

Click to enlarge,  Steven Coulbourne is graduate of the laser and photonics program at Central Carolina Community College in Lillington. He returned to help students and the faculty to learn how to use a piece of equipment donated by his employer Megawatt Lasers. Here he's seen working with part of the device. DAILY RECORD PHOTO/RICK CURL

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Steven Coulbourne is graduate of the laser and photonics program at Central Carolina Community College ... (more)

02.14.2019College & CommunityCollege GeneralStudents/Graduates

By RICK CURL, The Daily Record (Dunn)

A former CCCC Laser and Photonics student returned to his alma mater Monday to not only reconnect with the school, also to bring some real world technology to the program.

Steven Coulbourne knew he wanted to do something with his life when it came to a career, it wasn't until he took a tour of the Laser and Photonics classrooms at the Lillington campus, that he knew working with lasers could be just the right thing.

When you ask him what brought him to the field, the research and development tech says it was simple -- curiosity.

"It wasn't really something I'd say well I'm going to go into this field when I get out of high school," he said. "I didn't come to school straight out of high school, I got a job and then I ended up going back to school."

When he made the decision to return, Mr. Coulbourne said he discovered lasers as the most interesting thing he explored.

"When I was looking to go back to school it was probably the most interesting to catch my attention," he said. "I wanted something that was challenging."

Mr. Coulbourne had previously worked in the electrical field, so he knew some basics of the field -- first year students spend the majority of their time study different aspects of the electrical side of the field.

"It was similar since I was in the electrical field," he said. "You've got to learn about electrons before you learn about photons."

His current duties with the company is in the research and development area. His job is to make sure the laser he's working with meets the needs of the customer -- in his case the medical field.

"The customer has a set of parameters they want to hit," he said. "My job is to try and give them the most I can without destroying it. I run a lot of different parameters."

In addition to renewing old acquaintances with his instructors Gary Beasley (lasers) and John LaVere (electronics), Mr. Coulbourne also brought and explained how to use a new piece of equipment to the laser lab.

His employer, Megawatt Lasers of Hilton Head, S.C., donated what in layman's terms is a small metallic chamber used to heat up the lamps which produce the lights of a laser, what Mr. Coulbourne described as a "pump chamber" for a solid-state laser. If you're confused, it's fine. Unless you have a working knowledge of the laser industry you probably won't completely understand.

"This is one of the most important pieces," Mr. Coulbourne said. "Our style is different, but you still need to have a pump chamber."

The particular laser Mr. Coulbourne brought to the school is capable of many uses. This one, in particular, helps doctors break up kidney stones.

"The doctor can place it on the patient's side and then break up the kidney stones with the laser," said Dr. Chrys Panayiotou, who teaches the same curriculum at Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce, Fla. "It is a non-invasive surgery that makes the stones break up to very small pieces which can then be passed through the bladder."

Mr. Coulbourne said there were several motivators to prompt the owner of Megawatt Lasers, Scott Hamlin, to provide the technology to the school, not the least of which was to offer students a glimpse of real-world technology and to promote the field itself.

"I believe the motivation is not only to help the students but to also help push this field," Mr. Coulbourne said. "I do a lot of different testing, but I'm set to the limits of what the customer base is doing. So if you have free range in school where you can run all different kinds of test, there are less limitations and it could push the industry."

The donation is a major contribution to the school according to Mr. Beasley. He said it will help the students get a true grasp on what they will face once they walk out the doors of CCCC for the last time.

"It's huge," he said. "And what he's teaching us is huge."

The school has not only received the pump chamber from Megawatt, they also received the remaining devices which operate the laser overall.

"They'd already given us most of the equipment and we've been using part of it," Mr. Beasley said. "We've been using about half and now this is going to open up other avenues. The owner is just super, he sent a brand new laser for students to train on."