Northrop Grumman recently partnered with the University of New Mexico to sponsor an electrical and computer engineering senior design project.
The project, titled Adaptive Optics, had students model and write matrix laboratory code to perform adaptive optics correction, starting with the generation of a distorted wavefront and culminating with a corrected, undistorted image.
“Northrop Grumman is committed to supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] education. By working with schools across the nation, we’re able to mentor and help mold our country’s future engineers,” said Andy Kwas, engineering and technology manager, Northrop Grumman Technical Services. “This was exciting for both mentors and students. It provided students with hands-on experience while they supported programs such as the U.S. Air Force Starfire optical range and the Maui Space Surveillance Center telescopes.”
Students mentored by Northrop Grumman engineers spent eight months developing algorithms to correct distortions of the large mirror telescopes at the Starfire Optical Range at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., and the Maui Space Surveillance Center in Haleakala, Hawaii. These telescopes are used to observe dim objects in space from the ground. Conditions on Earth, such as gravity and atmospheric disturbances, can affect the telescope’s mirrors, degrading their precision and ability to focus.
“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, an electrical and computer engineering instructor at the University of New Mexico. “Because adaptive optics and real-time programming are beyond the scope of our undergraduate curriculum, the students working on the adaptive optics team gained critical skills from working with Northrop Grumman that will aid them in having a successful career.”
Northrop Grumman also funded test configurations of mirrors and the high-power computing time needed for students to model the effect of the Earth’s conditions on the telescopes.