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An integrative undergraduate photonics curriculum has been developed that utilizes three active learning methods: case studies, team learning, and project-based learning (PBL). This two-course sequence at Oklahoma State University's Light Applications in Science and Engineering Research Collaborative Undergraduate Laboratory for Teaching (LASER CULT), is designed as an introduction to optics and photonics for electrical engineering students. The LASER CULT has three primary goals: make course concepts more relevant to students, provide students with training and positive experiences in functioning on a team, and introduce in-depth projects that require higher level problem-solving skills, such as evaluation and synthesis. To accomplish these goals, which are synergistic with Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) outcomes, LASER CULT courses use two in-depth design projects that are constructed by student teams under realistic constraints rather than focusing on hierarchical concepts. The relevance of course content to students is increased by recreating the environment of practicing engineers. Assessment data, measured through individual reflection included in team portfolios and student assessment of learning gains, demonstrate the effectiveness of this format for meeting course goals and ABET criteria and pipelining students into graduate school.