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Global Navigation Satellite Systems GNSS as an Effective Tool for Engineering Education

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Innovations in Communications and Wireless Systems Education

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.819.1 - 26.819.10



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Paper Authors


Wayne A Scales Virginia Tech

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Wayne A. Scales is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Affiliate Professor of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at Virginia Tech. He is also the Director of the Center for Space Science and Engineering Research. He currently teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in the areas of electromagnetics and radio wave propagation, plasma physics, computational physics, upper atmospheric space science, and Global Navigation Satellite Systems GNSS. He received his PhD at Cornell University in Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics. He has received several Dean's citations for teaching excellence during his years at Virginia Tech.

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J Michael Ruohoniemi


Geoff Crowley

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Geoff Crowley is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates (ASTRA).
He is also a co-founder of the American Commercial Space Weather Association (ACSWA) and serves on the Executive Committee.
He has published over 100 scientific papers as lead author or co-author.
His interests include measuring the ionosphere from the ground and from space.
He led the 'CASES' GPS receiver development project, and development of the 'TIDDBIT' HF sounder, and he leads several instrument teams developing instruments for small satellites.
He was PI on the DICE Cubesat mission, and leads the recently selected NASA SORTIE mission.
He is well known for modeling and simulation of the ionosphere and thermosphere, and his experimental work on Traveling Ionospheric Disturbances.
He received his PhD in Ionospheric Physics from Leicester University in the UK.

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Global Navigation Satellite Systems GNSS as an Effective Tool for Engineering EducationApplications of Global Navigation Satellite Systems GNSS (including the Global PositioningSystem GPS) are ubiquitous in today’s society and their number is expected to increase rapidlyin coming years. More satellites and GNSS constellations, more broadcast frequencies, moreadvanced signal structures, and improved ability to take into account the impact of the earth’supper atmosphere will allow unprecedented accuracy and open the door to even morepossibilities. Current applications span a broad range of fields from basic science to morepractical engineering and technology including geophysical exploration, airline and spacecrafttracking, precision agriculture, and, most recently, unmanned vehicles. As a result, a growingnumber of employers are seeking hires with understanding and experience of GNSS. Theemerging nexus between education, research, and industry in this critical area presents anopportunity for a joint effort to help prepare the next generation of engineers with early, direct,and stimulating access to GNSS science and technology. This paper will describe an approach todeveloping an undergraduate educational experience utilizing GNSS with an innovativelaboratory component. This laboratory component provides an active learning experience for thestudents as well as experience in solving real world industry problems.We will discuss our experience in the Bradley Department of Electrical and ComputerEngineering (ECE) at Virginia Tech of teaching a capstone design laboratory-based coursecentered on GNSS theory and design applications. The course has evolved over 15 years and hasimpacted a broad cross-section of students from a number of engineering departments outside ofECE including, aerospace and ocean, mechanical, civil and environmental, and mining. Thecourse provides a theoretical component on the inner workings of GNSS as well as an innovativehands-on laboratory component using state-of-the-art equipment. Students are trained in how tooperate GNSS receivers, decode data and to ultimately progress to work on more extensive finaldesign projects. The course materials and laboratory assignments have also been used to enableResearch Experience for Undergraduates (REU) students to pursue more substantial researchagendas. The Virginia Tech laboratory component demonstrates creative uses of GNSStechnology in the classroom with relatively sophisticated yet low-cost GNSS receivers. Muchmore costly radio frequency signal simulators provide additional data products from which toteach the course and enable investigation of relatively advanced applications. We discuss thepossibility of developing a scaled-down, cost-effective, start-up laboratory to successfully trainstudents at other campuses on GNSS. We also assess student performance in achievingmeasurable learning objectives as the Virginia Tech GNSS laboratory has evolved over time.

Scales, W. A., & Ruohoniemi, J. M., & Crowley, G. (2015, June), Global Navigation Satellite Systems GNSS as an Effective Tool for Engineering Education Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24156

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