The advances of communication and networking have changed the world fundamentally. Communication and networking courses, especially wireless communication and networking courses, have become an integral part of the Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and Computer Engineering curricula. However, most of these courses are taught at many institutions without a laboratory. For those courses associated with labs, often special hardware based experiment systems are used. These experiment systems are expensive so most schools cannot afford them. More importantly, such systems lack the flexibility to evolve over time and adapt to different environments.
Supported by a NSF TUES type II project, we have developed a software defined radio (SDR) based general modulation/demodulation platform for enhancing undergraduate communication and networking curricula. In our previous NSF funded CCLI project “Evolvable wireless laboratory design and implementation for enhancing undergraduate wireless engineering education”, we have developed and demonstrated the first nationwide example of evolvable SDR based laboratories for three existing undergraduate courses. In this project, we are developing new lab components that can be adopted by multiple courses ranging from freshman year introductory course to senior year capstone design projects. Specifically, we have developed a SDR based general modulation/demodulation platform with a graphical user interface (GUI). This user-friendly GUI will allow students to adjust RF parameters such as carrier frequency, symbol rate, pulse shaping filter, etc. More importantly, this general modulation/demodulation platform is capable of transmitting many popular modulation schemes such as BPSK, QPSK, 8PSK, 16PSK, 16QAM, 64QAM. Additionally, students are able to observe the transmitted signal in both time and frequency, and observe the constellation of the modulation at both transmitter and receiver. Furthermore, this platform enables students to design their own new modulation constellations via the GUI. At receiver side, the SDR based platform also provides students the functionality of demodulating the data symbols and bits, and compare them with the transmitted data symbols and bits to calculate symbol error rate (SER) and bit error rate (BER) at different channel conditions and signal to noise ratios (SNRs). By assigning constellation points in the signal space and evaluating the SER/BER performance of the constellation, students gain hands-on experience on the digital modulation/demodulation in realistic wireless communication channels.
Through collaboration among the three participating institutions (including an Historically Black College)), the developed SDR based general modulation/demodulation platform will be integrated in undergraduate curricula of all three institutions.
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