June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Electrical and Computer
14.341.1 - 14.341.15
Communication Systems Laboratory Projects Featuring Interactive Simulation and Visualization
Engineering communication systems courses rely heavily on mathematical descriptions that can be difficult for students to quickly grasp. Hands-on laboratory projects and interactive simulation are two well-established methods to help students develop an intuitive understanding of a knowledge domain. Constructing a tangible physical system helps students connect the mathematically-expressed concepts to something real. Moreover, building an interactive simulation fosters intuition, provided the simulation itself can be constructed quickly and efficiently.
We have developed a set of laboratory projects that leverage the unique interactive visualization and simulation capabilities of the LabVIEW graphical dataflow programming environment. With LabVIEW, students quickly transform mathematical models, algorithms, and block diagrams into real-time systems whose dynamics can be experienced visually and aurally with an interactive graphical user interface. The laboratory projects guide students as they assemble working simulations and interact with the finished result. Each project presents required background theory as a mini-lecture embodied by a combination of text, diagrams, and streaming video screencasts, detailed specifications for subsystems to be built supported by video screencasts of relevant LabVIEW coding techniques, and suggested experiments to study and interact with the finished system. Hosted on the Connexions web-based open publishing resource, the projects are openly available and suitable as a turn-key solution for faculty who wish to enhance an existing communication systems course with little effort. What’s more, the modularity of the project materials and availability of Connexions editing tools enable faculty to modify and extend the projects.
Project topics cover fundamental concepts such as bit error rate (BER) vs. Eb/No performance measure, coherent detection, baseband modulation, inter-symbol interference (ISI) and eye diagrams, and block coding. More advanced projects explore bandpass modulation schemes using the computer soundcard and speaker-air-microphone (SAM) channel; students visualize the signals as they pass through each subsystem and listen to the modulated waveforms, and quickly develop an appreciation for interrelationships between carrier frequency, channel bandwidth, bit rate, and noise level. Practical projects such as text messaging over the SAM channel and Caller ID signal decoding motivate student interest to further study of communication systems.
Communication systems constitute an important part of all electrical engineering curricula. Introductory communication systems courses rely heavily on mathematical exposition to convey concepts, and traditional textbooks likewise feature mathematical derivations and proofs to explain fundamental concepts. The importance of a mathematical framework cannot be denied,
Doering, E., & Shearman, S. (2009, June), Communication Systems Laboratory Projects Featuring Interactive Simulation And Visualization Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/5240
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