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Low Cost Vector Signal Analyzer For Communication Experiments

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Instrumentation and Laboratory Systems

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1025.1 - 12.1025.7



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Paper Authors


Frank Tuffner University of Wyoming

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FRANK K. TUFFNER received his B.S. degree (2002) and M.S. degree (2004) in EE from the University of Wyoming. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in EE from the University of Wyoming with emphasis on the area of statistical signal processing.

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Andrew Catellier University of Wyoming

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ANDREW A. CATELLIER graduated from the University of Wyoming with a B.S. (2006) in EE. Andrew is pursuing his M.S. with an emphasis in signal processing. His research interests include micro-controller algorithm implementation and real-time signal processing.

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Robert Kubichek University of Wyoming

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ROBERT F. KUBICHEK received his Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming in 1985. He held research positions at the BDM Corporation and the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (U.S. Dept. of Commerce), and was an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado. He joined the University of Wyoming in 1991, where he is an associate professor. Research interests include remote sensing and speech analysis applications.

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John Pierre University of Wyoming

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JOHN W. PIERRE received the B.S. degree (1986) in EE from Montana State University and the M.S. degree (1989) and the Ph.D. degree (1991) in EE from the University of Minnesota. Since 1992, he has been on the faculty in the ECE Department at the University of Wyoming where he is currently a professor. He received UW's College of Engineering Graduate Teaching and Research Award in 2005. His research interests include statistical signal processing with applications as well as DSP education. He is a member of ASEE and the IEEE Societies.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Low-Cost Vector Signal Analyzer for Communication Experiments


Vector signal analyzers (VSA) are systems that provide real-time analysis of in-phase and quadrature components of RF signals, as well as providing spectral analysis and other signal measurement features. VSA’s would be an ideal addition to any undergraduate communications laboratory because of their ability to investigate the many types of signals prevalent today. Unfortunately, most VSA’s are priced well beyond the budgets of typical undergraduate ECE departments. This paper describes a novel low-cost VSA that uses basic PC data acquisition (DAQ) cards to capture signals of interest and real-time processing of signals with LabVIEW and MATLAB. This VSA system provides a user interface that has much of the basic functionality of standard hardware VSAs, but with the limitation that bandwidth is constrained by the sampling rate of the DAQ. The system provides real-time plots of I/Q constellations. We describe the user interface as well as example laboratory experiments, where students get hands- on experience with a variety of signals such as BPSK, QPSK, and QAM. Any undergraduate lab with workbenches outfitted with standard PC and data acquisition equipment will be able to make use of this novel VSA.

1. Introduction

Many universities offer a laboratory component as part their introductory digital and analog communication course. In traditional undergraduate teaching laboratory environments, many communication topics are difficult to convey because of their complexity in implementation. In the first reference1, a framework for meaningful hands-on undergraduate communication laboratories was introduced using a set of LabVIEW-based exercises that interact with computer- controlled industry-standard test and measurement equipment. This environment allows the students to explore a wide range of communication concepts using actual real-world signals and a balance between what is provided for the students and what the students need to design and implement to reinforce a particular concept. This paper expands on previous work1 by introducing a low-cost vector signal analyzer (VSA) built around a PC based data-acquisition (DAQ) card using LabVIEW and MATLAB. The second reference2 describes the use of hardware VSA’s in undergraduate labs. This paper goes on to describe a number of student laboratory exercises which use this VSA.

Most undergraduate textbooks3-6 do an excellent job of describing signal constellations that would be observed for signals such as QPSK and QAM, but few mention VSA’s as the test equipment used to measure these constellations. By introducing VSA’s in the laboratory, students get exposure to equipment used in the communication industry and hands on experience with real-time I/Q techniques. Many students find I/Q concepts to be difficult to understand. By having the students work with real-time I/Q signals in the laboratory, a goal is to make these concepts less abstract and more meaningful to the students.

Many test instruments can be created for undergraduate laboratories using a data acquisition card and LabVIEW. While the speed of operation of these instruments is usually limited by the acquisition rate of the data acquisition card and the computing power of the PC, the basic

Tuffner, F., & Catellier, A., & Kubichek, R., & Pierre, J. (2007, June), Low Cost Vector Signal Analyzer For Communication Experiments Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--3041

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