Asee peer logo

Design and Outcome of a Course on Software-defined Radio Within the Computer Science Department

Download Paper |


2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Division Technical Session 8

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Marc Lichtman University of Maryland College Park Orcid 16x16

visit author page

I am an adjunct professor in the dept of Computer Science at UMD where I teach an undergrad elective that I created, introducing the CS students to digital signal processing, wireless communications, and software-defined radio. I do it in a non-traditional and hands-on manner, because the students are strong programmers but don't have the same type of signals and systems background EE students do. I have a PhD in EE from Virginia Tech where I studied wireless communications and signal processing.

visit author page


Travis Fredrick Collins Analog Devices, Inc.

visit author page

Travis holds BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering from WPI. He joined ADI in April 2017 in the System Development Group where he focuses on complete signal chain workflows and system architectures. Travis’ expertise includes digital signal processing, communications theory, radar, and high performance compute.

visit author page


Robin Getz Analog Devices, Inc. Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Robin is currently the Director of Systems Engineering at Analog Devices, and has over twenty years of diverse industry experience in engineering leadership, product marketing and sales with multi-national semiconductor firms, spending his last 15 years at Analog Devices Inc. He has a successful track record of being a highly motivated, strategic thinker, with a passion for technology, and education. Robin currently manages a multi-national, multi-disciplinary team of engineers who deliver high volume board designs, overseeing schematic capture, layouts, initial and volume manufacturing, EMI, ESD and vibration testing for regulatory compliance (CE, FCC), and production test development, and mechanical design for boxing/packaging, for both OEM customers and ADI's education outreach.

Robin obtained his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1994 from the University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon, Canada. Robin holds 4 patents in the area of acoustic / thermal control for personal computers.

visit author page

Download Paper |


We discuss the design, challenges, and outcomes of a unique course that was created and taught twice so far, which introduces CS undergraduates in their senior year to the area of wireless communications, in a hands-on manner using low-cost Software-Defined Radios (SDRs). During this course, students learn basic wireless communications and Digital Signal Processing (DSP) concepts, and how to implement the techniques onto SDRs. Additional course learning objectives include digital signals, filtering, frequency domain, digital modulation, noisey channels, cellular, and IoT. The course utilizes open-source SDR toolkit software including GNU Radio and Python libraries, allowing students more interesting and engaging assignments/exercises and more advanced concepts to be explored. What is unique about this course is that this material is typically taught at the graduate level within ECE, spread across numerous individual courses. CS students, at least at our university, do not get exposed to any DSP or signals background which is normally required to learn about SDR using traditional methods/textbooks, so they must start from scratch, which is why this course has heavy use of graphics, animations, and examples. As such, this course does not dive as deep into the mathematics behind the theory as a normal graduate level ECE course would. There is much more emphasis on “learning by doing”, and actually creating SDR applications. To date, this course has been taught twice, and we found that the CS students who were interested in networking and cyber security obtained a much better appreciation of the “lower layers” of wireless communications systems, which made them more well-rounded when entering the work world. In addition, all of the students obtained a much better appreciation of the RF devices and signals that exist all around us, including ones they use in everyday life. By exploring “signals in the wild” with their SDRs, they realized that there is an invisible dimension that exists all around us, which most people are not aware of. Student-provided course feedback for both years was overwhelmingly positive!

Lichtman, M., & Collins, T. F., & Getz, R. (2021, July), Design and Outcome of a Course on Software-defined Radio Within the Computer Science Department Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36913

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015