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Hands-On Learning of Wireless Communication Principles Using Software-Defined Radio Experiments and LabVIEW

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies: Electrical and Control Engineering

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Ismail Guvenc Florida International University

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Dr. Ismail Guvenc (senior member, IEEE) received his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from University of South Florida in 2006, with an outstanding dissertation award. He was with Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs during 2005, and with DOCOMO Innovations Inc. between 2006-2012, working as a research engineer. Since August 2012, he has been an assistant professor with Florida International University.
His recent research interests include heterogeneous wireless networks and future radio access beyond 4G wireless systems. He has published more than 100 conference/journal papers and book chapters, and several standardization contributions. He co-authored/co-edited three books for Cambridge University Press, served as an editor for IEEE Communications Letters (2010-2015) and IEEE Wireless Communications Letters (2011-present), and as a guest editor for several other journals. Dr. Guvenc is an inventor/coinventor in 23 U.S. patents, and has another 4 pending U.S. patent applications. He is a recipient of the 2014 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award and 2015 NSF CAREER Award.

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Natalie Paul Florida International University

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Dr. Natalie Paul has a degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Learning Technologies. She, also, has a background in Mathematics Education and Engineering.

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Rhys Bowley National Instruments

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Rhys is an engineer working at National Instruments in a role that focuses on wireless communications in education.
Rhys graduated with a Masters (MEng Hons) in Communications and Electronic Engineering from Cardiff University, where he spent a short time working as a researcher in loadpull characterisation techniques for mobile device power amplifiers. During his time at Cardiff he also taught lab classes in LabVIEW programming for both under graduate and post graduates alike.
His passion is that wireless communications in education should not get left in the past, and that the most effective way to fuel world changing discoveries is to have research and industry ready undergraduates with real world experience.

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Maria Lorelei Fernandez Florida International University

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Maria L. Fernandez has a PhD in Mathematics Education and is currently engaged in research to better understand engineering students’ learning from and perceptions of experiences involving the use of novel hands-on experimentation in wireless communications. Her research has focused on experiences promoting undergraduate student learning and development, particularly with preservice mathematics teachers. Also, she has conducted work on the use of technology for student learning of mathematics.

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With the rapid proliferation of millions of smartphones, the adoption of the latest 4G LTE technology worldwide, and the emergence 5G broadband wireless technologies, wireless communications has become an integral part of every person’s daily life and will continue to be as such in the foreseeable future. Due to this remarkable surge in wireless technologies, a strong need for developing a flexible, hands-on laboratory platform to teach a wide variety of wireless techniques has emerged. Indeed, current educational systems worldwide and in the United States teach wireless communications by mostly (and sometimes exclusively) focusing on the theory. This approach is perceived as dry by the students who often find it hard to connect the rather complex theoretical abstractions to their everyday "fun" interaction with smartphones. Recently, software-defined radio (SDR) and cognitive radio (CR) concepts that allow developing programmable and affordable wireless systems have gained significant interest in the wireless community. The introduction of new highly reconfigurable and affordable SDR-based hardware modules such as the popular Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP) platform is seen as a promising approach to building a hands-on wireless laboratory.

To this end, National Instruments have recently introduced a series of lab experiments for teaching wireless communication principles using the USRP SDR platforms. First, fundamental theory of wireless communications such as digital modulation formats, synchronization, and equalization are introduced in the class. Later, students implement these theoretical concepts in the lab using the National Instrument’s USRP SDR platforms. At a large southeastern university, this curriculum is being used to teach wireless communications to undergraduate and graduate students. The goal of this paper will be to summarize the experiences and lessons learned from teaching this course, which includes about 15 undergraduate and 20 graduate students. To collect data, pre-class and post-class surveys are conducted with the students at the beginning and end of each semester. Moreover, post-lab online surveys were made to collect data explicitly for the hands-on lab experiments. Students often commented on the lack of background in using LabVIEW software. For example, one student indicated that, “Since LabVIEW is new to many of us, it would be greatly helpful if the lab process were taken step-by-step’’. Some other students suggested use of more detailed instructions in the lab manual. In general, survey outcomes highlighted the importance of using hands-on components in the course. Statements such as, “USRP Lab experiments greatly help by showing visually how the concepts we learn in class are applicable” and “(USRP labs were) extremely useful, they were a big help in grasping the concepts.” The full paper will provide further details about survey results and draw conclusions on how to best deliver such an SDR-based lab course to graduate and undergraduate students.

Guvenc, I., & Paul, N., & Bowley, R., & Fernandez, M. L. (2016, June), Hands-On Learning of Wireless Communication Principles Using Software-Defined Radio Experiments and LabVIEW Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25435

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