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Electrical and Computer Engineering Course

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

New Developments in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Alan Johnston Villanova University

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Associate Teaching Professor at Villanova University, and Vice President for Educational Relations, AMSAT

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Edward Stephen Char Jr.

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BS EE Villanova University 1996
MS EE Villanova University 1998

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A new CubeSat Mini Project was developed for an introductory electrical and computer engineering course. CubeSats are a type of nano-satellites that have become very popular in recent years in educational settings. The CubeSat Simulator Mini Project was designed around the AMSAT CubeSat Simulator, a low-cost, 3D printed and Raspberry Pi-based satellite functional model that has working solar panels, rechargeable batteries, and a UHF transmitter.

The mini project was designed with the goal of allowing students to learn about CubeSats and satellite technology, and understand the role of radio and telemetry in satellite operation. The students also gained experience working in small teams on different aspects of the project, giving a presentation, writing a short report, and sharing information using a Wiki. The project was structured as six weeks in duration, at the end of the semester. Each class built two CubeSat Simulators. In addition, each class brainstormed and built a new payload sensor to add to the Simulator.

There were a number of activities in the Mini Project. An introductory exercise involved online research of a CubeSat mission and a satellite launch. Another introductory activity involved building a hand-held antenna out of a metal tape measure and wood, and use it to receive signals from satellites on orbit. There was one additional activity called Space Hot Topics. In a single class period, students picked a space-related controversial topic, researched it, identified an opportunity related to it, brainstormed a solution, then presented it to the class.

The overall structure in the class was to form two design teams to build a CubeSat Simulator, which were further broken down into 4 subgroups, each with 3-5 students. Each subgroup built their subsection which was then integrated into the working whole. Subsystems included space frame, hardware, software, payload, and ground station. Six satellite simulators were successfully built. This paper describes the project, its goals and design, and discusses its implementation and results from the Spring 2019 semester. Lessons learned and future plans are also discussed.

Johnston, A., & Char, E. S. (2020, June), Electrical and Computer Engineering Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34513

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