Northrop Grumman Sponsors Senior Design Project in Adaptive Optics

May 21, 2013

Senior Design Poster SessionPhoto: Senior Design Poster Session for Electrical and Computer Engineering

 Adaptive optics is a specialized area in engineering that isn't taught in many engineering schools, including UNM, but an undergraduate team working on a senior design project has built and tested an experimental system with financial assistance from Northrop Grumman.

Adaptive optics has a number of uses. It was originally developed by the U.S. Air Force for ground based lasers and satellite imaging.  Other applications use a form of the technology to explore the interior of the retina as a way to search for the beginnings of eye disease. Another application removes distortion in the atmosphere so astronomers can see stars much more clearly.

The technology was originally developed in a military setting at the Starfire Optical Range at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, by researchers seeking to remove atmospheric distortion so that lasers could be aimed more effectively. Northrop Grumman was part of that development process and has a strong interest in developing engineers with some background in the technology. This is the first time they have funded a senior design team project at UNM.

The UNM senior design team had to start from scratch, learning about the technology itself and then the underlying mathematical calculations that support it. One team member said it took them awhile to figure out what kind of math to use. But the result of this year long effort is a test bed for adaptive optics at UNM.


“The Electrical and Computer Engineering senior design class project allows our students to work with industry partners to design a project from conception to execution,” said Rich Compeau, ECE Department instructor. “Because adaptive optics and real-time programming are beyond the scope of our undergraduate curriculum, the students working on the adaptive optics team gained important critical skills from working with NGC that will aid them in having a successful career. We are constantly seeking corporate sponsors who will challenge our students and raise the overall quality of our Senior Design program. 

Media Contact: Karen Wentworth (505) 277‑5627; email: