It took a long time for RTA, Rezekne, Latgale, Latvia and all FoE partners (Mittweida University of Applied Sciences and Jade University of Applied Sciences, Germany; "Angel Kanchev" University of Ruse and Vasil Levski National Military University, Bulgaria) to arrive at this important moment, we had to go a long, difficult but at the same time interesting path. In essence, it all began with setting the strategic goals of FoE at that time Rezekne Higher Education Institution (now RTA) in developing new directions. And so in the early 2000s it was decided to create a study program "Mechatronics", which for that time was new for Latvia yet already present in the higher education system of Europe. The program was created under the leadership of prof. Andris Martinovs, in collaboration with our long-term partners - Jade University of Applied Sciences (Germany) and personally prof. Joseph Timmerberg.
The next strategically important stage was the European Union Structural Funds (in our case the ERDF - European Regional Development Fund) and their acquisition aimed at improving the material and technical basis of the study process - construction of a new FoE study corpus and purchase of laboratory equipment. Many thanks to this time rector, prof. Leonars Svarinskis for his great support for the idea of FoE collective and its implementation. The total cost of the project was 9,8 million EUR, and as early as summer 2014, a modern and appropriate for European education and science level building with state-of-the-art facilities for study and research opened its doors. In fact, an engineering center was established in Rezekne, which required further growth.
It is time to say that many innovative and, to a large extent, strategically important things, including in higher education, come in quite unexpectedly. This was the case with laser technology direction. After another ERASMUS exchange program visit (Rector Edmunds Teirumnieks, FoE Dean Erika Teirumnieka, prof. Andris Martinovs) at Technical University of Gabrovo, Bulgaria, we met prof. Lyubomir Lazov, a laser technology expert who has dedicated his entire life to laser research in both Germany and Bulgaria. He has developed study courses and programs in this field and has taught students in Bulgaria and beyond. Therefore, even more unexpected then was our surprise when prof. L.Lazov offered to develop laser technologies also in Rezekne. It should be noted here that at that time there was no separate study program in the field of industrial laser technologies in Latvia and in the Baltic States as a whole. In 2012, after retirement at Technical University of Gabrovo, prof. L.Lazov started lecturing to mechatronics students in Rezekne, in parallel beginning to work on the realization of the idea for laser technology - use of lasers in the existing professional bachelor's program "Mechatronics" and master's program "Laser technology" (together with Aivars Vilkaste). Here, too, it began with the return of the first laser equipment from Germany, the organization of summer schools in laser technology at RTA, new projects and other international activities, including ERASMUS student and teachers exchanges, which raise the prestige and recognition not only of RTA, but also its partners. Special thanks go to prof. Horst Exner of the Mittweida University of Applied Sciences and his team, who trusted us and enabled us to use their equipment and experience in the development of laser technology direction at RTA. At present RTA, together with foreign colleagues, is working on the development of a doctoral program “Laser Technology”.
During this time, we have entered into cooperation agreements and are actively working with industry professionals and laser equipment manufacturers and developers such as Trumpf (Germany), Coherent-ROFIN (US-German joint venture), Laserline (Germany) and many more.
Thanks to scientific activity of prof. L.Lazov and cooperation partners, now the laser technology section is a separate unit at RTA International Scientific Practical Conference "Environment. Technology. Resources". Its collection of scientific articles is quoted in the SCOPUS database.
With reference to the above, it is only natural that laser technologies play an important role in RTA and the manufacturing industry as for integration of our trained specialists in economic development in Latvia, Bulgaria, Germany, India and other countries around the world. And the logical milestone is the newly built Laser Technology Center of the Faculty of Engineering at the Rezekne Academy of Technologies. EU ERDF funds have been used for its construction and purchase of equipment.
Here we would like not only ourselves to be proud of our (RTA) achievements in laser technology, but also those at Gabrovo, Veliko Tarnovo, Ruse, Mittweida, Wilhelmshaven and many other cities where their teachers and students have contributed to the development of laser technology.
Thank you all!
Dean of the Faculty of Engineering