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A Successful “Applications Oriented” Undergraduate EE Course Elective: Electronic Navigation Systems

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Innovations in Communications and Wireless Systems Education

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.116.1 - 26.116.19



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Paper Authors


Richard J. Hartnett P.E. U.S. Coast Guard Academy

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Richard J. Hartnett is a professor of electrical engineering at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT. He received his B.S.E.E. degree from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, his M.S.E.E. degree from Purdue University, and his Ph.D. in EE from the University of Rhode Island. He is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Connecticut, and his research interests include efficient digital filtering methods, improved receiver signal processing techniques for electronic navigation systems, and autonomous vehicle design.

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Kelly Charles Seals P.E. U.S. Coast Guard Academy

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Commander Kelly Charles Seals is Program Chair for Electrical Engineering at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He has a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University, and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy from which he graduated in 1998. He also received a Certificate in College Teaching from the Colleges of Worcester Consortium.

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Paul Benjamin Crilly U.S. Coast Guard Academy

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Paul Crilly is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the United States Coast Guard Academy. He received his Ph.D. from New Mexico State University, his M. S. and B.S. degrees at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, all in Electrical Engineering. He was previously an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Tennessee and was a Development Engineer at the Hewlett Packard Company. His areas of interest include laboratory development, antennas, wireless communications, signal processing, and instrumentation.

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A Successful “Applications Oriented” Undergraduate EE Course Elective: Electronic Navigation SystemsIn typical undergraduate Electrical Engineering programs, students take courses in circuitanalysis, electronics, programming, signals and systems, digital design, physics, calculus,differential equations, plus some advanced courses such as linear algebra, discretemathematics, communications systems, digital signal processing, antennas, and controlsystems. These courses are important, however students sometimes find themselveswondering about specific “real-world” applications for all the theory and informationlearned in these courses. Certainly as faculty members we make every attempt to discussapplications in class, but the unsettling fact is that some students really want to learnmore about “real-world” systems! The purpose of this paper is to present how weconnect theory to practice using navigation systems as the particular application.Several “real-world” systems discussed in our junior/senior elective course calledElectronic Navigation Systems are highlighted in this paper. One system we learn is theNAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS). Students find that shift registers are usedto generate a unique 1023 bit pseudo-random binary sequence for each satellite, and theywrite Matlab code to generate sequences for all satellites (digital design application).After telling our students about Gold codes, they then use their functions to study the autoand cross correlation properties of the sequences, and we highlight how a receiver mightuse those methods to estimate signal time of arrival for this Code Division MultiplexedAccess (CDMA) system employing Binary Phase-Shift Keying (BPSK) signals(communication system application). Using the ranging information from N satellites,students learn that GPS receivers typically solve an over-determined system of Nequations (where N>4) for 3-d position (x,y,z), plus receiver time offset (t) relative toGPS system time (linear algebra application).Given actual satellite locations and ranging information, students then write an iterativealgorithm to solve for receiver position plus time offset (linear algebra and programmingapplication). Then we show our students that GPS accuracy is a function of satelliteposition (azimuth and elevation) relative to the user, and they are asked to write a Matlabfunction which estimates GPS accuracy as a function of visible satelliteazimuth/elevations. Finally, we ask our students to think about using a GPS receiver totry to find a restaurant in a large city such as New York, NY, where the only satellitesvisible would be the ones directly overhead. They quickly realize that they might have toask for directions rather than depend on their GPS receiver inside their cellular telephonefor guidance (linear algebra application)! Other systems discussed include aircraftnavigation systems such as VOR (VHF Omni-Directional Radio Range) (AM and FMcommunications application), and Instrument Landing System (ILS) (antenna, phasedarray application).Finally, we present multi-year data from end-of-course surveys as the assessment toolthat suggest our students see this course as highly relevant, applicable, and motivating.

Hartnett, R. J., & Seals, K. C., & Crilly, P. B. (2015, June), A Successful “Applications Oriented” Undergraduate EE Course Elective: Electronic Navigation Systems Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23457

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