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Ultra Low-Cost Software-Defined Radio: A Mobile Studio for Teaching Digital Signal Processing

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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

Improvements in ECE Signals and Systems

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1283.1 - 24.1283.13



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Paper Authors


Cory J. Prust Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Dr. Cory Prust is Assistant Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). He earned his BSEE degree from MSOE in 2001 and his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2006. Prior to joining MSOE in 2009, he was a Technical Staff member at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. He teaches courses in the signal processing and embedded systems areas.

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Steven Holland Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Steven S. Holland (M ’13) was born in Chicago, IL, in 1984. He received the B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the Milwaukee School
of Engineering (MSOE), Milwaukee, WI, in 2006,
and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical and
computer engineering from the University of Massachusetts
Amherst, in 2008 and 2011 respectively. From 2006 to 2011, he was a Research Assistant working in the Antennas and Propagation Laboratory
(APLab), Department of Electrical and Computer
Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst. He was then a Senior Sensors Engineer with the MITRE Corporation, Bedford, MA from 2011 to 2013. Since 2013 he has been an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

His research interests include ultrawideband antenna arrays,
electrically small antennas, Radar systems, digital and analog circuits, and engineering education.

Dr. Holland received the Best Student Paper Award at the 2010 Antenna Applications Symposium, Allerton Park, Monticello, IL, and is a member of Tau
Beta Pi.

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Richard W. Kelnhofer Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Dr. Kelnhofer is the Program Director of Electrical Engineering and an Assistant Professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). Formerly, he held engineering and managerial positions in the telecommunications industry. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Marquette University in 1997 and is a Professional Engineer registered in the State of Wisconsin. Dr. Kelnhofer teaches courses in circuits, communication systems, signal processing, and information and coding theory.

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Ultra Low-Cost Software-Defined Radio: A Mobile Studio for Teaching Digital Signal ProcessingSoftware-defined radio (SDR) is being used by many institutions as a teaching tool to illustrateand explore concepts presented in signal processing and communication courses. The inherentflexibility of SDR coupled with the ability to capture, visualize, and process real-world signalsprovides numerous benefits in classroom and laboratory settings. Furthermore, exposure to SDRis increasingly important for students wishing to pursue careers in the telecommunication,networking, and radar fields. An undergraduate laboratory can be outfitted with relatively high-performance SDRs at a reasonable cost.It was recently discovered that USB digital television tuners can be used as SDR receivers.Since this discovery, the tuners have been successfully used in a wide variety of applications. Ata cost less than $20, these so-called “RTL-SDR” devices set a new price point for SDRtechnology that is particularly attractive within an educational context.This paper presents the use of these low-cost SDRs and supporting software for teaching digitalsignal processing (DSP) concepts to undergraduate electrical and computer engineering students.The proposed approach creates an interactive learning environment based on mobile studiopedagogy. A series of studio projects have been developed, each of which requiresimplementation and testing of DSP algorithms on data received by student-owned SDRs. Datasources include signals of opportunity as well as instructor-generated test signals. The result is amobile learning environment in which students can visualize and apply abstract theoreticalconcepts, implement real-time algorithms, and rapidly test their designs using real-world data.

Prust, C. J., & Holland, S., & Kelnhofer, R. W. (2014, June), Ultra Low-Cost Software-Defined Radio: A Mobile Studio for Teaching Digital Signal Processing Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23216

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