The EE curriculum has long had significant project experiences in the freshman, junior and senior years, but not in the sophomore year.
2017 was the inaugural year for a new sophomore projects course. Rather than being a standard circuits lab, in this course students focus on a project with multiple subsystems that illustrate a variety of topics in the EE field.
The project for Fall 2017 was a “Coffee Can Radar.” This was based on a system first developed at MIT:
Low frequency (audio) signals are converted to microwaves and transmitted with an antenna (yes, it is a coffee can). Reflections off objects are received by a second antenna, and the microwave signal is converted back down to the audio range. The audio forms of the transmitted and received signals are fed to a laptop which utilizes digital processing to compute distance (range) and velocity. Specifically, the information of interest is contained in the spectrum (frequency content) of these signals.
Each student team recorded several videos:
>Demonstrate measurement of range.
>Demonstrate measurement of velocity.
>Explain the system operation for measuring range.
>Explain the system operation for measuring velocity.
>Demonstrate use of the audio spectrum analyzer.
>Demonstrate use of the microwave spectrum analyzer.
Importantly, the students are expected to UNDERSTAND everything they are doing. As they progress through the course, they learn about lab practices, proper use of instrumentation, grounding, debugging, loading, sinewaves and spectral analysis, applications of op-amps. They also test their circuits, seeing the effect of varying parameters and observe several cases where “idealized” models of circuits and devices fail in practice.
Below is a slideshow (the sound effects refer to a “chirp” signal, which is VERY important in the application- it is a special EE trick to convert a time delay to a frequency shift‼), and a set of videos submitted by students.