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ECE 4984 Software-Defined and Cognitive Radio Design Technical Elective, Spring 2015

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Software-Defined Radio is radio in which many of the physical layer functions are performed in software. Cognitive Radio is defined as radio with autonomous adaption/learning capability (a "robotic" radio). This project-oriented, hands-on course introduces software-defined radio (SDR) and cognitive radio (CR), technologies that are reshaping wireless communications.  Students will prepare for employment or graduate study in these or other complex, interdisciplinary areas of technological innovation, by working in teams to design, develop, present/demonstrate and document a system or component that meets user requirements and specifications.  The course covers SDR and CR concepts and enabling technologies in parallel with a rapid orientation to hardware and software toolkits for creation of SDR and CR systems and applications.  In- and out-of class tutorials will use open-source SDR software and a take-home SDR kit.  Lab activities will allow students to explore SDR and CR applications using more powerful SDR hardware and test equipment.  Team design projects begin in week 4, and project teams will be supported by in-class advising.  Students have access to lab facilities for project work during daytime in-lab Instructor and GTA office hours throughout the semester as well as during scheduled evening lab time after mid-semester. This past spring the course had 14 students. A summary of last year's projects can be found here.  

Instructor and Teaching Assistant

Dr. Carl Dietrich has led several SDR and CR-related projects, including an NSF funded summer undergraduate research program.  He has taught SDR courses and tutorials for graduate students and industry professionals, as well as undergraduate communications, electromagnetics, and electronics courses.  Dr. Dietrich is a Professional Engineer in Virginia, IEEE Senior Member, IEEE-HKN and ASEE member, and Extra Class amateur radio operator, recent chair of the Wireless Innovation Forum’s Educational Special Interest Group, and organizer of the SDR Design Challenge student contest. 


Mr. Ferdinando Romano is the primary developer of new tutorial exercises for the course.  His research includes investigation of efficient approaches for testing and evaluation of cognitive radios, and he is also an amateur radio operator.  Mr. Romano or another graduate assistant with SDR/CR experience will supervise the labs and help advise students on their projects.

THANK YOU to Ventura Solutions, Inc. (VSI) for support of the course. VSI has donated 25 kits consisting of a BeagleBone Black single board computer, SDR receiver, and powered USB hub.


New Radio Lab

Radio labThe course will use Virginia Tech’s updated Radio Lab.  Each lab station is equipped with two USRP N210 radio-frequency (RF) front ends that enable computers running SDR/CR software to transmit as well as receive, in addition to a soldering station with ventilation system, spectrum analyzer, oscilloscope, function generator, multi-meter, and power supply.  Test equipment is networked with a PC that can support SDR/CR design/signal processing and automated measurements.

SDR/CR Testbeds


Early in the semester, students will be given orientation and access to CORNET, a 48-node indoor SDR/CR testbed and O-CORNET, a 15-node outdoor testbed, for demonstration and evaluation of small or medium-scale systems. 

Take-Home SDR Kit and SDR Software

Students will use a take-home, receive-only RF front end that includes an antenna and an adapter cable for use with test equipment.  Students will learn three effective approaches to developing SDR/CR applications using open source software pre-installed on virtual machines and lab computers

Recognition of Outstanding Projects

The top three projects in the spring of 2014 were awarded prizes by Ventura Solutions, Inc. in support of this course.We wish to extend our deepest appreciation to Ventura Solutions for agreeing to provide prizes to selected Spring 2014 project teams.”

Spring 2014 Class and Project Highlights

For a complete list of projects and summaries from the Spring 2014 class, please click here.