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A Software Defined Radio Project For First Year Ecet Students

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

ECET Curriculum

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.116.1 - 12.116.10



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Paper Authors


Peter Goodmann Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne

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PETER E. GOODMANN, P.E. is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology at IPFW. He earned his BS degree in Electrical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and his MS degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University. He has worked for 28 years in industry and education, and is a member of the IEEE and the ASEE.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Software-Defined Radio Project for First-Year ECET Students Abstract: This paper discusses a software-defined radio project which was built by first-year students in an introductory circuit-analysis course. The project was intended to engage and motivate students by providing a real-world application to which they would connect the abstract concepts of circuit analysis. The effort was a success. Acknowledgements This work was supported by an Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Summer Instructional Development Grant. I would like to thank PCB Express, who donated the printed circuit boards, and the following companies who supplied parts as donations or samples: Molex, Inc., Mouser Electronics, Kemet Corp., Linear Technology Corp., and Analog Devices, Inc. Introduction Most of us are aware that engineers are reputed to be boring people who toil in a dry, boring profession. That stereotype is, of course, far from true, but our many of our first-year students and potential students have not learned yet that technology is fun and rewarding. Students who don’t learn that lesson in the first or second semester may leave the profession for something more exciting, such as Accounting or Folklore. Unfortunately, the introductory Electrical Circuits courses taken by first-year ECET students do little to inspire most of them. Homework assignments ask students to analyze networks of resistors (and, before long, capacitors, inductors and other elements) which illustrate concepts like Kirchoff’s Laws and Thevenin’s Theorem, but which do not actually do anything of use in the “real world”. Typical laboratory exercises are similar, and similarly dry. If our retention percentage is not what we would like it to be, we should not be surprised. Of course, there are a significant number of students who do not leave for the greener pastures of microeconomics. Some of them already know that our discipline is rewarding in many ways other than a paycheck, possibly because they began tinkering with technology while in high school. If we could give the rest of our students a first-year experience something like the experience these tinkerers and radio amateurs give themselves, it seems reasonable to think that our retention rates would benefit. That kind of experience can be provided by assigning all first- semester students to build a small project which is challenging but not beyond their skills. This project should do something useful and interesting, but it should also be useful for demonstrating and reinforcing the principles of circuit analysis. Some of us may be surprised to find that a software-defined radio (SDR) project meets all of these requirements. In the Fall semester of 2006, each student enrolled in the introductory circuit analysis course was required to build the “front-end” hardware of a simple SDR. On completion, each student took his or her radio to the IPFW Amateur Radio Club station where it was connected to an antenna and to a PC running the “back-end” DSP software which defined the radio, and heard Morse code signals which originated thousands of miles away. The satisfaction and pride experienced by each of these students was very obvious. It is too soon to judge the effect on retention, but the results of an end-of-semester survey of the students seem encouraging in that regard. The idea of requiring first-semester students, many of whom know little about electronics at the beginning of the semester, to build, test, debug, and experiment on a software-defined radio may

Goodmann, P. (2007, June), A Software Defined Radio Project For First Year Ecet Students Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2061

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