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Work in Progress: Interactive Introductory Online Modules on Wireless Communications and Radio-frequency Spectrum Sharing

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count

16

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/38173

Download Count

17

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Paper Authors

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Carl B. Dietrich Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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A licensed Professional Engineer in Virginia, Carl Dietrich earned a BS EE degree from Texas A&M University, and MS EE and PhD EE degrees from Virginia Tech. He has taught courses in software defined radio, communications systems, electronics, and electromagnetic fields. He has also taught short courses on software defined radio since 2007, covering fundamental concepts and enabling technologies in addition to the use of open source software to develop and run SDR applications. In addition, Dr. Dietrich has performed and directed research in the areas of cognitive radio, software defined radio (SDR), multi-antenna systems, and radio wave propagation, and has authored or co-authored more than 50 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers. He has worked at Virginia Tech, Bell Northern Research, and the Defense Information Systems Agency. He has served as chair of the Wireless Innovation Forum's Educational Special Interest Group, is a member of ASEE and Eta Kappa Nu, Senior Member of IEEE, and an Extra class amateur radio operator.

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Nicholas F. Polys Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Nicholas F. Polys is Director of Visual Computing with Virginia Tech Research Computing Group and Affiliate Research Professor in the Department of Computer Science. He has developed interactive 3D graphic content and systems for over 15 years. His research interests lie at the center of graphics and Human Computer Interaction: the intersection of visualization, virtual environments, and perception. After his undergraduate research in Cognitive Science at Vassar College (1996), he jumped into the networked information space of the WWW developing audio, visual, and 3D assets and software. His doctoral work at Virginia Tech (2006) examined perceptual cues and layout behaviors for Information-Rich Virtual Environments for desktop to immersive platforms.

He is a member of ACM, IEEE Computer Society, and the Web3D Consortium. He is a co-author of the international standard (ISO) Extensible 3D (X3D), elected Director and President of the Web3D Consortium, and Chair of the Web3D User Interface Working Group.

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Kenneth Reid University of Indianapolis

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Kenneth Reid is the Associate Dean and Director of the R.B. Annis School of Engineering at the University of Indianapolis and an affiliate Associate Professor in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He is active in engineering within K-12, serving on the TSA Board of Directors. He and his coauthors were awarded the William Elgin Wickenden award for 2014, recognizing the best paper in the Journal of Engineering Education. He was awarded an IEEE-USA Professional Achievement Award in 2013 for designing the nation's first BS degree in Engineering Education. He was named NETI Faculty Fellow for 2013-2014, and the Herbert F. Alter Chair of Engineering (Ohio Northern University) in 2010. His research interests include success in first-year engineering, engineering in K-12, introducing entrepreneurship into engineering, and international service and engineering. He has written texts in design, general engineering and digital electronics, including the text used by Project Lead the Way.

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Joshua Alexéi García Sheridan Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-9981-743X

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Joshua García Sheridan is a PhD candidate in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He received his Bachelor's of Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His current research work includes evaluation of remote learning sites for radio engineering coursework, and his current research interests for dissertation center around teachers' pedagogical choice to engage in engineering activities within the K-12 system.

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Don-Roberts Emenonye Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Don-Roberts Emenonye (S’16–M’20) received the B.S. (with first-class honors),
in electrical engineering from the University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria in 2016. He received the M.S. from Virginia Tech in 2020. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Wireless @ Virginia Tech at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA. His research interests include differential modulation, massive MIMO, and Reconfigurable intelligent surfaces.

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Xavier Gomez

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Joseph Tolley

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Cameron Makin

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Joseph Gaeddert Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-5297-4267

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Dr. Joseph D. Gaeddert is a Research Associate Professor with the Hume Center, at the Center for National Security and Technology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, VA). Dr. Gaeddert holds a courtesy appointment in the Electrical & Computer Engineering department and has a research focus on digital communications systems design, software-defined radio technologies, real-time embedded processing, and digital signal processing algorithms. Prior to VT Joseph spent 5 years as technical staff at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in the Advanced Satcom and Operations Group as the lead developer on several test and evaluation programs. He has written and published numerous papers on wireless communications topics including ultra wide-band communications measurements and theory, fading channel estimation techniques, multi-rate synchronization, filter design, signal detection and classification, physical layer security, multi-aperture antenna arrays, and resource management of wireless networks. While at the Hume Center, Dr. Gaeddert has served as the principal investigator (PI) and co-PI for a variety of programs relating to the implementation, analysis, and testing of special communications waveforms with particular focus on security and LPI/LPD requirements.

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Abstract

1. Description of the objectives and motivation for the contribution to ECE education

The demand for wireless data transmission capacity is increasing rapidly and this growth is expected to continue due to ongoing prevalence of cellular phones and new and emerging bandwidth-intensive applications that encompass high-definition video, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), intelligent transportation systems (ITS) including autonomous vehicles, and others. Meanwhile, vital military and public safety applications also depend on access to the radio frequency spectrum. To meet these demands, the US federal government is beginning to move from the proven but inefficient model of exclusive frequency assignments to a more-efficient, shared-spectrum approach in some bands of the radio frequency spectrum. A STEM workforce that understands the radio frequency spectrum and applications that use the spectrum is needed to further increase spectrum efficiency and cost-effectiveness of wireless systems over the next several decades to meet anticipated and unanticipated increases in wireless data capacity.

2. Relevant background including literature search examples if appropriate

CISCO Systems’ annual survey indicates continued strong growth in demand for wireless data capacity. Meanwhile, undergraduate electrical and computer engineering courses in communication systems, electromagnetics, and networks tend to emphasize mathematical and theoretical fundamentals and higher-layer protocols, with less focus on fundamental concepts that are more specific to radio frequency wireless systems, including the physical and media access control layers of wireless communication systems and networks. An efficient way is needed to introduce basic RF system and spectrum concepts to undergraduate engineering students in courses such as those mentioned above who are unable to, or had not planned to take a full course in radio frequency / microwave engineering or wireless systems and networks.

We have developed a series of interactive online modules that introduce concepts fundamental to wireless communications, the radio frequency spectrum, and spectrum sharing, and seek to present these concepts in context. The modules include interactive, JavaScript-based simulation exercises intended to reinforce the concepts that are presented in the modules through narrated slide presentations, text, and external links. Additional modules in development will introduce advanced undergraduate and graduate students and STEM professionals to configuration and programming of adaptive frequency-agile radios and spectrum management systems that can operate efficiently in congested radio frequency environments. Simulation exercises developed for the advanced modules allow both manual and automatic control of simulated radio links in timed, game-like simulations, and some exercises will enable students to select from among multiple pre-coded controller strategies and optionally edit the code before running the timed simulation.

Additionally, we have developed infrastructure for running remote laboratory experiments that can also be embedded within the online modules, including a web-based user interface, an experiment management framework, and software defined radio (SDR) application software that runs in a wireless testbed initially developed for research. Although these experiments rely on limited hardware resources and introduce additional logistical considerations, they provide additional realism that may further challenge and motivate students.

3. Description of any assessment methods used to evaluate the effectiveness of the contribution,

Each set of modules is preceded and followed by a survey. Each individual module is preceded by a quiz and followed by another quiz, with pre- and post-quiz questions drawn from the same pool. The pre-surveys allow students to opt in or out of having their survey and quiz results used anonymously in research.

4. Statement of results.

The initial modules have been and are being used by three groups of students: (1) students in an undergraduate Introduction to Communication Systems course; (2) an interdisciplinary group of engineering students, including computer science students, who are participating in related undergraduate research project; and (3) students in a graduate-level communications course that includes both electrical and computer engineers. Analysis of results from the first group of students showed statistically significant increases from pre-quiz to post-quiz for each of four modules on fundamental wireless communication concepts. Results for the other students have not yet been analyzed, but also appear to show substantial pre-quiz to post-quiz increases in mean scores.

Dietrich, C. B., & Polys, N. F., & Reid, K., & García Sheridan, J. A., & Emenonye, D., & Gomez, X., & Tolley, J., & Makin, C., & Gaeddert, J. (2021, July), Work in Progress: Interactive Introductory Online Modules on Wireless Communications and Radio-frequency Spectrum Sharing Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/38173

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