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On Developing a Software Defined Radio Laboratory Course for Undergraduate Wireless Engineering Curriculum

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.947.1 - 24.947.16



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Paper Authors


Shiwen Mao Auburn University

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Shiwen Mao received Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Polytechnic University, Brooklyn, NY. Currently, he is the McWane Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. His research interests include cross-layer optimization of wireless networks and multimedia communications, with current focus on cognitive radio, small cells, 60 GHz mmWave networks, free space optical networks, and smart grid. He is on the Editorial Board of IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications, IEEE Internet of Things Journal, IEEE Communications Surveys and Tutorials, among others. He received the 2013 IEEE ComSoc MMTC Outstanding Leadership Award and the NSF CAREER Award in 2010. He is a co-recipient of The IEEE ICC 2013 Best Paper Award and The 2004 IEEE Communications Society Leonard G. Abraham Prize in the Field of Communications Systems.

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Yingsong Huang NetApp Inc.

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Yingsong Huang received the Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Auburn University, Auburn, AL in May 2013. He received the M.S. degrees in control theory and control engineering and the B.S. degree in Automation, both from
Chongqing University, Chongqing, China. Currently he is a Software Engineer at NetApp. His research interests include modeling, control and optimization in smart grid and wireless networks.

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Yihan Li Auburn University

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Dr. Yihan Li received her B.E. and M.E. degrees from Tsinghua University at Beijing, P.R. China in Electrical Engineering in 1993 and 1997, respectively. She also received her M.S. in System Engineering in 2000 and the Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2004 from Polytechnic University (now Polytechnic Institute of New York University) at Brooklyn, NY, in 2000. Currently, she is a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Auburn University in Auburn, AL. She was a research scientist in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Polytechnic University from 2004 to 2006, and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Auburn University from 2006 to 2009. Dr. Li’s research interests include scheduling in-wired and wireless networks, wireless ad hoc networks, and high-speed packet switching. She is a member of Tau Beta Pi.

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On Developing a Software Defined Radio Laboratory Course for Undergraduate Wireless Engineering CurriculumSoftware Defined Radio (SDR) represents a modern approach to radio engineering. In traditionalwireless systems, multiple chipsets that each implements a different wireless standard arerequired in a wireless device to enable communications between heterogeneous devices. WithSDR, there is a single piece of programmable hardware (with field programmable gate arrays(FPGA) on board); wireless communications waveforms and protocols are implemented insoftware, which can be uploaded to the FPGAs on-demand. As a result, SDR enables flexiblereconfiguration of wireless communication systems, more efficient access to the spectrum,coexistence and great inter-operability among heterogeneous wireless systems.SDR has great potential for both military and civilian applications, with far-reaching impact inour society. It is important to expose our undergraduate students to this advanced technology. Inaddition, the SDR platforms provide easy access to all the layers in a wireless network system,which was not possible with traditional wireless systems. Usually MATLAB simulation projectsare used in our communication system course due to the lack of access to the physical layer.With SDR, students can easily build and experiment with real wireless waveforms andapplications.In this paper, we report our experience on the development of an SDR laboratory course at theundergraduate level to enhance the Bachelor of Wireless Engineering (BWE) curriculum atAuburn University, an ABET-accredited program and first-of-its-kind in the US. With the“learning by doing” approach, we aim to enhance teaching and student learning oncommunications theory and wireless networking. We adopted an open-source platformconsisting of GNU Radio and Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP), which would behelpful for dissemination and adoption at other schools. The proposed SDR lab consists of thefollowing parts:(i) Preliminaries, including introduction to Linux, Gnu Radio, and the USRP platform.(ii) Analog communications, including amplitude modulation (AM) and angle modulation systems.(iii) Digital communications, including binary phase-shift keying (BPSK), Quadrature Phase Shift Keying (QPSK), intersymbol interference and eye diagram.(iv) Wireless local area networks (WLAN): including various WLAN protocols such as ALOHA, CSMA, CSMA/CA (802.11DCF) and a Polling Service Based Mac (PSMAC).(v) Cellular network: students use OpenBTS to build a Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) base station to support cellphone calls in the lab.We have developed detailed lab instructions for the nine experiments in this lab course. We alsoaim to include an open project to allow students to explore their creativity to build their owncommunication systems with help from the instructor and graduate teaching assistants. The labcourse was test-offered in Spring 2013 as ELEC 4970—Special Topics in Electrical Engineering:Software Defined Radio Lab. The Student Assessment of their Learning Gains (SALG) tool( was used to create a survey to collect feedback from students.

Mao, S., & Huang, Y., & Li, Y. (2014, June), On Developing a Software Defined Radio Laboratory Course for Undergraduate Wireless Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22880

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