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Technician First: Teaching High Frequency Design As A Technological Enabler

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Design in the ECE Curriculum

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1166.1 - 14.1166.14



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Paper Authors

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Alan Cheville Oklahoma State University

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Charles Bunting Oklahoma State University

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

Technician First: Teaching High Frequency Design as a Technological Enabler


This paper reports results of changes in student learning in a course in high frequency design. The course was revised from a traditional lecture/homework/summative examination format focusing on microwave theory to a project-based course using high frequency design techniques in the context of a realistic system design project. As wireless devices and networks continue to become more prevalent, it is more critical that electrical engineers of all sub-disciplines have a working knowledge of RF concepts and devices. Many courses on RF design require a significant prior knowledge of electromagnetics, however, limiting student access. To counter this trend a one semester course was developed designed explore ideas of teaching RF concepts as a “technological enabler” in order to give students who specialize in non-RF disciplines a basic understanding of RF system design. The participating faculty identified three critical areas that needed to be addressed sequentially to meet the goal of serving as a technological enabler: the ability to perform and understand RF measurements, a deep conceptual understanding of RF principles, and an understanding of RF system design principles. The first third of the course trained student as technicians so they were able to perform and understand RF measurements. At the conclusion of their training students were certified by measuring the performance of several RF devices using a spectrum analyzer and vector network analyzer. Conceptual understanding was addressed in the classroom by organizing the course around key RF concepts. To address system design principles during the last half of the semester the class designed a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) system. Teams of two students each designed passive components for the SAR system in an iterative approach that included simulation, testing, and then final assembly of the system. Student learning was evaluated by qualitative evaluation of videos taken during measurement tasks,and rubric based evaluation of student artifacts.

As the speed of electronic devices moves ever higher, electromagnetic radiation plays a larger role in electronic design. Wireless networking, digital pulse propagation on integrated circuits and printed circuit boards, issues of electromagnetic interference and compatibility, and the technical and ethical issues of RFID tags all require some understanding of fundamental principles of high frequency (HF) engineering. At the undergraduate level, however, electromagnetics and, by association, HF design are often seen as complex and arcane subjects. Students’ first introduction is usually in a required electromagnetics course. Students must navigate through a conceptual maze of vector mathematics and analytic problems in which understanding of fundamental concepts is often less important than analytical tractability. While this mathematical development is vital for those students who will go on to get graduate degrees in electromagnetics, this approach does not serve the majority of students who need a working knowledge of HF devices and technology to understand how HF design impacts their own engineering sub-disciplines.

To those not “initiated into the priesthood”, the principles of HF design are often seen as a “black art” 1 since analytic solutions are not tractable. However, the fundamental design principles are

Cheville, A., & Bunting, C. (2009, June), Technician First: Teaching High Frequency Design As A Technological Enabler Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5529

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