Most older wireless buffs can remember clearly what it was that got them excited about being able to transmit or receive signals through thin air. Often, it would have been when they were young someone gave them an unusual radio to play with and they had time to play with it. That someone probably also provided some encouragement to figure out the unusual aspects – that “unusual” wireless device might have had some short wave bands, or maybe it was a set of walkie talkies, or perhaps it was a remote controlled model plane. Before the internet era, once the interest in radio was kindled, amateur radio was a natural hobby to fall into. After their school years many of these radio amateurs went on to focus on wireless and electronics as a career which they approached with a good practical feel for wireless fundamentals.
Nowadays, with many more avenues for youngsters to explore tech-wise, radio has to compete. Raspberry Pis and Arduinos have opened up lots of exciting ways to get into technology and the wireless enablers of bluetooth, wi-fi and the ubiquitous always-available-internet eclipse the possibility of getting excited about hunting down or producing the more unusual radio signals for yourself.
So now we have university students exploring a huge array of STEM-based undergraduate courses, and some of these include radio communication theory at the heart of them. But many don’t. So here at SDRplay we thought, how can we excite these undergraduates doing all those other non-wireless techie courses, to have a play with radio and get some of that practical experience which they didn’t get when younger? Some might even switch career paths towards radio communications as a result!
That got us to team up with Essaimage Associates, working with the Sapienza University of Rome. Together, they have created all the teaching materials needed to have a fun, practical course which lecturers can easily adopt and adapt as an additional learning module. (It lasts 11 hours – so it is an hour a week for one academic term.)
You might ask why SDRplay? Well, the folks at Sapienza University of Rome came across our RSPs when looking for dependable, sensitive receiver for a research project in 2016. They realised that compared to a cheap dongle, it was rugged and reliable but most importantly had much better dynamic range and some serious immunity to phantom signals.
Yes, but surely you can teach undergrads with some $30 dongles instead? I hear you say. Well yes you can; but these are not school kids who have time to progress to something better next year – these are smart students under serious time-pressure, and you have just these few precious hours to sell them on the wonders of what an SDR receiver can do. It is essential that the kit won’t let you down! Those who get inspired end up with an SDR where they can “spin the dial” and in their own time explore the rest of the radio spectrum with confidence (rather than battling with phantom signals).
The course which teachers can pick up and use, is called “Understanding Radio Communications – using SDRs” and you can find out all about it by going to https://www.sdrplay.com/understandingradio/ (This includes the link for them to get access to the free PowerPoint materials , set-up guides and handouts for the students etc.)
So here’s the thing, if you know of any university lecturers or teachers teaching a STEM subject at undergraduate level, please send them that link, and encourage them to join our webinar on Thursday 4th February where they can find out more: https://youtu.be/djEHrXFq9UA