Precision metrology PhD students win first place in national competition

Categories: General News

Engineering students from UNC Charlotte recently tackled the challenge of developing a system capable of measuring freeform optical mirrors with a vertical resolution of around 1 micrometer, which corresponds to approximately 1/100th of the width of a human hair.

The team of Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering students, Dhanooj Bobba, Jacob Brooks, Rehab Khattab and Jesse Redford, entered this year’s American Society of Precision Engineering national competition and with the goal of winning but also contributing to the science of measurement (“precision metrology”).


The students realized that optical measurement systems enable the development of state-of-the art technology, but they come with costs that are often prohibitive. 

Jesse Redford

“Using an optical pickup unit which can be purchased for $20 or reclaimed from an old Xbox/DVD player,” explained Redford, “our calibration strategies and control system design improves access to low-cost, high resolution measurement systems.”


The team earned first place in the competition by optimizing a control system with novel approaches that maximized speed and reduced error. In addition to lowering the cost, this unique approach also allowed them to complete measurements 1000x faster than the original prototype. The team scored the highest marks for 5 out of 8 performance metrics including: 

  • best preliminary presentation
  • final report
  • error budget
  • technical presentation
  • Q&A
  • fastest measurement times.

Learn more about the Center for Precision Metrology.