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An Introductory Communication Systems Course with MATLAB/Simulink-Based Software-Defined Radio Laboratory

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

New ECE laboratories

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Cory J. Prust Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Dr. Cory J. Prust is an Associate Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department
at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). He earned his BSEE degree from MSOE in 2001 and his
Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2006. Prior to joining MSOE in 2009, he was a Technical Staff member
at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. He teaches courses in the signal processing, communication systems, and embedded systems areas.

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In recent years, software-defined radio (SDR) has become increasingly popular in electrical and computer engineering education as a tool for teaching communication systems, networking, and digital signal processing. Adoption of SDR has been enabled through decreasing hardware costs, mature and widely available software development tools, and educational resources aimed at effectively utilizing SDR in undergraduate education. A survey of the current engineering education literature shows that SDR technology has been widely adopted in advanced digital communications and networking courses, elective courses focusing on SDR technology itself, as an enabling technology in senior capstone or research projects, and as a demonstration and motivational tool supplementing existing courses or laboratories.

This paper presents an introductory physical-layer analog and digital communication systems course which has been designed to use modern SDR hardware and supporting software tools as an integral part of the course. Because the course prerequisites include only signals and systems analysis, Fourier Transform theory, and probability, it is a true first course in communication systems. Course topics include fundamental topics such as amplitude and angle modulation as well as modern communication topics such as orthogonal frequency division multiplexing. Each major course topic is accompanied by a laboratory module designed to reinforce that topic through simulation and hands-on experimentation. Students use MATLAB and Simulink software tools together with personal low-cost SDR hardware, allowing them to conduct experiments and investigations outside the traditional undergraduate laboratory setting. Through a balanced pedagogical approach involving in class experimentation and outside of class projects, the laboratory modules are designed to ensure strong understanding of foundational topics while simultaneously engaging and motivating students through investigation of real-world wireless communication signals and systems.

Details of the course approach, structure, and implementation are presented. Laboratory modules, their associated learning outcomes, and the use of MATLAB/Simulink and SDR hardware are described. The paper concludes with lessons learned and future improvements based on the initial offering of the course. The complete course materials, including all MATLAB and Simulink software and laboratory guides, are freely available.

Prust, C. J. (2019, June), An Introductory Communication Systems Course with MATLAB/Simulink-Based Software-Defined Radio Laboratory Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32078

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