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Augmenting Hardware Experiments With Simulation In Digital Communications

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Course and Curriculum Innovations in ECE

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.255.1 - 8.255.8



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Paper Authors

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Dennis Silage

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

Session 2632

Augmenting Hardware Experiments with Simulation in Digital Communications

Dennis Silage Electrical and Computer Engineering College of Engineering, Temple University

So Much Equipment, So Little Time

An undergraduate course in digital communications is usually offered with a supplemental hardware laboratory to illuminate the concepts presented in the course text. The traditional undergraduate laboratory presents communication circuit hardware (phase-locked loops, voltage- controlled oscillators) and systems (modulators, demodulators, filters) in the context of the measurements provided by complex instruments (modulation and spectrum analyzers, sweep frequency generators) and techniques (bandwidth, distortion and bit error) 1. The operation of these instruments is often daunting to the undergraduate and somewhat out-of-context with the course text and with the computer-aided techniques employed in undergraduate laboratories offered in other course sequences, such as electronics, control systems, and digital logic.

A reasonable solution to this dilemma is to provide an undergraduate communications laboratory with a computer data acquisition and interactive process control system, such as LabView2. Another modern, fully interactive, computer-aided digital communication hardware laboratory is Discovery II by Feedback (, which provides theory and background, a measurement practicum, and probing questions. Virtual measurement techniques are employed using a custom high-speed (USB) data acquisition and control system interface to hardware modules and interactive references and graphics. The student is required to obtain, analyze and interpret the measurements observed at various points in the communication system.

Although such a communication hardware laboratory provides the student with a firm basis for understanding and an exposure to temporal and spectral measurement techniques, they are confined to the expanse of the hardware. These hardware laboratory experiments also become highly repetitive with yearly use. Augmenting these fundamental but fixed experiments with innovative simulations, prepared new each semester, provides an environment for understanding with material that is both stimulating and non-repetitive in content. The simulation experiments do not replace the hardware measurement practicum here, but rather extend and enhance them.

Communication systems convey information from a transmitter over a channel to a receiver. Modern communication systems do so in the presence of additive noise and mild to severe system non-linearity, which tend to corrupt the transmission. Examining the performance of a communication system as a set of analytical expressions, even if random noise and system non- linearities can be described adequately, seems to provide little insight or motivation3. However,

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Silage, D. (2003, June), Augmenting Hardware Experiments With Simulation In Digital Communications Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11402

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