About Michael Pate

Michael Aubrey Pate, 49, of Lone Jack, MO, passed away at his home on November 7 after a two-year-long battle with cancer.

Michael was born February 20, 1961 in Burbank, CA to Willard Pate and Janice Garcia. His passion for football led him to Central Missouri State University on a full-ride football scholarship. While there, he met his future wife, Traci. Michael graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, minoring in Computer Science. After gaining an Executive MBA from the Paul Merage School of Business at University of California, Irvine and a Master’s of Science from Optical Sciences at University of Arizona, Michael began his own optical consulting company with 17 years of experience under his belt. Michael enjoyed designing, creating and teaching optics and illumination design. To date, Michael is credited with 34 patents for his inventions or co-inventions including Hewlett Packard’s LightScribe and other optics-based technologies.

Michael's Autobiography
Michael wrote this autobiography around 2001.

I was born the second of four siblings and raised in Burbank, Calif. My father was a machinist/entrepreneur and my mother was a homemaker/seamstress/entrepreneur. Both of my grandfathers were machinists and very mechanical.

Between 4th and 8th grades, I had an after school paper route. I used the income for spending money and saved enough for a few big items like a Yamaha 80 motorcycle and a 35mm SLR camera. I quit the paper route in the Spring on my 8th grade year so that I could pole vault in the after school sports program. I continued pole vaulting through my Junior year in high school. As a Sophomore in high school I won the pole vault event at every track meet, with a personal best of 12 ft., 6 in., which helped our team win the league championship.

I played football from 9th grade through college. When I was 14 years old, I set a goal to get through college on a football scholarship. As a Junior and Senior in high school, my father took us to USC and UCLA football games at the Los Angeles Coliseum. I wanted to play college football at Standford. In pursuit of my goal, I worked out with weights, ran, took ballet lessons, Judo lessons, and did whatever I could to help me become a better football player and attain my goal. I was a very focused individual.

As a Sophomore, Junior and Senior in high school, we were league champions. As a Sophomore and Junior, I played tight end and defensive end, and as a Senior captain, I played defensive tackle. I was awarded a full-ride scholarship, fulfilling my goal that I set at age 14. I accepted the full-ride scholarship to United States International University (USIU) in San Diego, Calif. I graduated one semester early from high school to attend the Spring quarter at USIU and played spring ball. We were 8-3 in NCAA Division II independents. I played for Head Coah Tom Walsh, later of the Los Angeles Raiders as Assistant Head Coach and Athletic Director Sid Gilman, inventor of the forward pass. USIU canceled the football program after the first year due to financial difficulties.

I went back to Junior College to play my sophomore year as an offensive guard. We were 8-3 league champions. I was awarded a full-ride scholarship to Central Missouri State University who was looking for a good pulling guard. We went 4-3-3 and 6-4 my Junior and Senior years respectively. I coached the offensive line as an assistant coach the year after I graduated. We were 8-3 division co-champions that year.

Interest in Optics
My interest in optics was probably first cultivated as an interest in science. My 4th grade teacher read us a story about a teenage inventor that fascinated me. I had a great 8th grade science teacher who did demonstrations of chemistry of color and chemical experiments. I took his basic and advanced science classes where we were able to do experiments. I also worked at my father's machine shop assisting him and making my own designs. And also worked with my older brother taking apart his cars and engines.

In high school I went to the Griffith Park Observatory in the Hollywood Hills and saw a laserium show. A laserium show is laser beams on the ceiling of a planetarium hemi dome to rock and roll music such as the Rolling Stones and Led Zepplin. It was bitch'n to coin a phrase of the times (1977-1979). After the show I found out the company who made the machines and they were in nearby Van Nuys, Calif. I went to the company and talked my way into the back room labs and met a laser tech that was kind enough to show me how the machines worked and what was inside them. After this visit, I was very excited about optics and lasers and knew I had to work in this field after college. I also learned about solar energy and photovoltaic cells from the 1978 energy crisis and become interested in this field as well.

With this newfound interest in lasers and optics I found out when I started college that the closest field of study to optics was physics. I was often seen as an enigma being a physics major and a football player. I did find it helped break down some stereotypes about football players, especially linemen, and their intelligence levels. I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Physics with a minor in Computer Science from Central Missouri State University in December 1984.

In college I took a course on becoming a private pilot that included taking the FAA ground school flight test, which I passed. Being a poor college student, I could not afford the flight lessons. i did take and pass the naval aviator examination for the US Navy and was offered a commission as a naval aviator. I declined this offer because I would have had to ride in the back seat because I wore corrective lenses. Instead I moved back out to California to seek work in the optics field and chose to put off attending graduate school for the time being.

Work History
After two weeks of intensive searching, I found a job with a company who designed and manufactured a product line of electro-optical bar code verification equipment. At RJS Enterprises Inc. of Monrovia, Calif. I worked directly for the President, who was also to be my optical engineering mentor. I did some electro-optical computer simulation modeling of the image-detector interaction for accuracy in measuring the width of bar code pattern bars and spaces.

Next I developed a fully computer-automated test station to be used as an in process and final assembly quality assurance instrument. This instrument automatically scanned our instruments over a bar code pattern measurement standard and collected and analyzed statistical measurement data from several scans and made a go, no-go decision on the accuracy of the instrument. On this project, I was very excited about the ability to move stages and perform data acquisition using the personal computer. I have been able to exploit this knowledge and excitement in many jobs since this time.

I also participated in some manufacturing engineering tasks, instrument calibration, and some new product development activities. In these activities I learned the hard way about several important optical design principles - the cosine to the 4th power intensity fall off with field angle and chromatic aberration.

Recon/Optical Inc., Barrington, Ill. 1985-1988
I accepted a position at Recon/Optical because it had more opportunities to increase the depth and breadth of my work experience in optical engineering. At Recon/Optical I spent about half of my time in an optical metrology laboratory and about half doing optical systems analysis using CODE V, optical system testing and electro-optical computer modeling of reconnaissance camera image quality.

In the optical metrology laboratory, I became an expert in the use of many optical metrology instruments. Some of these are: phase measuring interferometers, spectroradiometers, lens bench, alignment telescopes, thodolites, microdensitometer, photometers, and various hand tools. I learned how to interpret optical prints, measure and grade optical elements from scratch and dig specifications, diameter, center thickness, flatness, irregularity, radius of curvature, wedge, reflectivity, polarization, coating specifications, focal length, and MTF. The optics ranged in size from 3 mm to 1 meter and the materials were glass, color filters and infrared materials.

In the optical system-testing laboratory, I was involved in testing opto-mechanical subassemblies for optical properties or performing optical alignment tasks. I was involved in setting up optical testing configurations to test various tactical optical systems for optical system performance. I developed a technique called wavefront tuning to use in determining the best mounting pad locations to use for optimum mirror wavefront flatness in the 1/10 wave region using a phase measuring interferometer. The work involved UV through LWIR spectral regions. I worked with both passive and active systems and both pulsed and continuous lasers. Some of this work was classified.

The optical systems analysis work I performed was doing optical system tolerancing and sensitivity analysis using CODE V optical design and analysis software. The ecetro-optical system modeling consisted of running and enhancing an in-house Fortran program that took optical system parameters and air weather service data on the viewing conditions and calculated the reconnaissance system MTF for various configurations.

Northrop Electro-Optical Systems Division, Anaheim, Calif. 1988-1989 
I accepted the position at Northrop in the Electro-Optical Systems Design Group as an optical system design engineer to do more challenging optical analysis and optical design work. I used CODE V optical design and analysis code to perform many optical system analysis and improvement tasks. I also used the program to perform tolerance analysis and improvement tasks. I also used the program to perform tolerance analysis tasks to analyze and resolve production issues.

I did many optical design and analysis tasks in support of government proposals for improvements to existing systems and development of new multi-sensor platforms. I was involved in several significant proof of concept experiment developments. One was to develop a subsystem module to receive a laser ranging pulse from a laser radar and return a pseudo test signal to optical system. The pseudo target signal included the main pulse and a 10 ns delayed and reduced intensity pulse.

Another technology demonstration project was to develop a full hemispherical imaging system for a missile warning application. I designed and developed a fully computer-automated opto-mechanical model of the double double dove scanner. I had the pleasure of working on many projects including CASS, TCS and Scout FLIR.

I had the pleasure and good fortune of working with Tom Godfrey, Michael Joseph, Rob Vonhandorf and Dr. MV. R.K. Murty author of six chapters of Optical Shop Testing. I presented and published two papers while at Northrop. 

  1. Attenuator Screes in Interferometer Cavities, Michael Pate, M.V.R.K. Murty, SPIE, Vol. 966, 1988
  2. Multisensor Boresighting, Michael Pate, SPIE, 1988
Perkin-Elmer Company, Applied Optics Division, Garden Grove, Calif. 1988-1993
I accepted a position at Perkin-Elmer as an optical engineer in the manufacturing engineering organization because it offered larger technical challenges in all phases of optical system design and especially optical system development and manufacturing. This turned out to be an excellent choice of companies to work for because of the depth and breadth of technologies under one roof. This is a world class facility of which only a half dozen in compare.

I served as a manufacturing engineer on many key projects some of which were: A12 missile warning sensor, Brilliant Pebbles Lidar, Clementine Project - All sensors, Ball Beamwalk Shuttle Mirror Project, MIT Laser Comm., and many other small projects and optical component projects. My specific responsibilities were to participate in the concurrent optical and opto-mechanical design activities of these development projects. I was responsible for component, subsystem and final system acceptance testing. The subsystem and final system testing responsibilities often required for the development of special tooling and special test equipment and instruments.

Some of the more significant instrument development efforts were conceptualizing, designing, and developing the following instruments:
  • 3.39 um interferometer used for testing MWIR optical systems
  • Infrared optical system transmission tester 2-14 um
  • IR optical system automated test station
  • Intensified CCD radiometric and image quality test station
  • Design and development of several refractive null lenses for aspheric post polishing and testing
I learned about and was responsible for following the optical component fabrication from shaping through generation, grinding, polishing, edging, sagging and coating operations. I was also responsible for optical assembly and optical assembly tooling and materials. In the optical assembly area, I developed and worked with subcell manufacturing process, air bearing interferometric alignment techniques. I also worked with many fabrication procedures to ensure cleanliness and low outgassing materials for space operations.

I had the opportunity to work with all phases and types of precision metal fabrication processes and machines. This included beryllium, stainless, invar, brass, copper, aluminum and several others. I worked with single point diamond turning of optical elements and high precision optical and snap together optical assemblies.

I had the pleasure and good fortune to work with the following individuals Kais Almarzouk, Ed Arriola, Dan Barber, Glenn Brossus, Dave Erickson, Tony Ghaemi, Dave Hulan, Roger Johnson, Izzy Lewis, Juan Rayces and Don Small to name a few.

Tamarack Scientific Company, Anaheim, Calif. 1993
At TSC I was senior optical engineer responsible for the design and development of flat panel display optical system and a UV laser ablation system for fabrication of inkjet print nozzles. In addition to optical system design and development activities I was also involved in optical assembly tooling and optical system alignment and testing activities. I did extensive work with UV laser beam homogenizer designs, tolerance analysis, sensitivity analysis, and optical fabrication and alignment instruments. In addition I was involved in the enhancement of the optical engineering equipment and training of company personnel in various areas of optics.

Business and Engineering Consulting Business, Warrensburg, Mo. 1993-1995
I developed several business plans and performed strategic business consulting activities during this time period, as well as performing some significant computer software consulting projects.

Hewlett Packard, Corvallis, Ore. 1995-2002
I was recruited to join the laser ablation group of the HP inkjet business supply unit as a senior optical engineer. My basic responsibilities were to maintain and improve the optical performance of more than $20 million worth of UV laser ablation equipment. These responsibilities included the conceptualization and development of optical system cardinal point UV laser diagnostic instruments. This also includes education and training of four shifts of laser maintenance technicians on system and instrument alignment and use.

I was the project leader for several key projects associated with the laser ablation area. One is to specifiy and develop second source suppliers for all of the consumable optical components in the machine. I also led teams of engineers and technicians to develop optical component lifetime tracking programs. Laser mask fabrication and outsourcing strategy and planning. Performing optical design sensitivity analysis and tolerance analysis studies to laser beam input variations on our high volume ablation process.

I had conceptualized and managed the development of a world class instrument to perform the optical testing of a UV laser ablation projection lens. This instrument is capable of measuring the optical distortion to 50 um with a gauge R&R of 10 percent. It also tests for flange focal length, encircled energy, telecentricity and magnification.

I performed optical design and analysis studies on anamorphic afocal optical designs, projection lens distortion measurement, and telecentricity properties of projection lenses. I also completed optical design and tolerance analysis for the development of an in-line UV projection lens pupilometer to monitor in real time the laser beam illumination of the entrance pupil of the projection lens.

I also served as an internal optical consultant to numerous other groups to help solve optical engineering issues or improvement projects on high volume production machines. I have developed and presented courses for technician training on laser ablation system operations, optical alignment and optical element metrology.

Michael wrote the above while he was still at Hewlett Packard. After working there, he started his own consulting company - Optical Short Course International. His company also included an educational component to compliment the consulting side of his business. Michael taught at companies all over the world.