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Digital Communication Systems Education via Software-Defined Radio Experimentation

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Teaching Analog and Digital Communication: Novel Ideas for Lecture Courses, Laboratories, and Projects

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.502.1 - 22.502.13



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Paper Authors


Alexander M. Wyglinski Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Alexander M. Wyglinski is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Director of the Wireless Innovation Laboratory (WI Lab), and Director of the WPI Limerick Project Center. He received his Ph.D. degree from McGill University in 2005, his M.S. degree from Queens University at Kingston in 2000, and his B.Eng. degree from McGill University in 1999, all in electrical engineering.

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Daniel J. Cullen

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Digital Communication Systems Education via Software-Defined Radio ExperimentationModern society is increasingly becoming dependent on digital communication systems in orderto function properly, with a growing number of applications relying on these devices, e.g.,personal health/body networks, defense/homeland security, navigation/localization, socialnetworking, vehicular transportation. In order to provide electrical and computer engineering(ECE) undergraduate students with a solid foundation in digital communication theory whilesimultaneously enabling them to synthesize several fundamental concepts taught in class with thelatest communication systems technology, an ECE undergraduate course was developed andinstructed that focused on a “hands-on” experimentation approach using both computersimulations and programmable radio prototyping hardware, i.e., software-defined radio (SDR).The use of SDR technology can enable students to obtain valuable insights on the practicalimplementation issues involved in performing real-time “over-the-air” communicationexperiments while concurrently relating their design experiences to abstract theoretical concepts.Ultimately, this course was devised to give students a systems-level understanding (breadth) of amodern digital communications device while focusing on several key aspects (depth) in thedesign and implementation of these systems.In this paper, we present the development, structure, and organization of this undergraduate-leveldigital communication systems course, including details on the “hands-on” laboratorycomponent that employed both computer simulation and SDR experimentation. Furthermore,the lessons learned from the first offering of this course as well as student feedback will bepresented and analyzed in order to provide insights to other academic institutions considering toinclude similar courses in their ECE undergraduate curriculum.

Wyglinski, A. M., & Cullen, D. J. (2011, June), Digital Communication Systems Education via Software-Defined Radio Experimentation Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17783

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