Texas Tech University - Teaching

Texas Tech Reengineers its Microwave Engineering Course to Make for a More Vivid and Hands-On Experience

 

Customer Background

The Texas Tech Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering offers students opportunities for course work and research experience leading to masters and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering. The electrical and computer engineering building houses excellent laboratories, classrooms, and computer facilities for teaching and research. 

The Design Challenge

Microwave educators at Texas Tech University sought to inspire engineering students to choose microwave engineering over competing subjects such as computer programming and robot development and increase enrollment within the EE program. As a result of the interest and enthusiasm generated by a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) tumor tracking research project and a National Science Foundation (NSF) wireless structural health monitoring sensor project, both led by Professor Changzhi Li in 2012, the challenge was to take the same hands-on experiences gained with that effort and integrate it into the more traditional and theoretical microwave engineering curriculum.

The Solution

A reengineered course in microwave solid-state circuit design was developed, for which AWR and parent company National Instruments partnered to provide the RF/microwave software and hardware, as well as tutorials and technical support. 

Course objectives were to become familiar with the fundamentals of design and testing of microwave/RF circuits, the analysis of microwave circuits on the module/board level, transmission lines, S-parameters, Smith charts, and device modeling, and to design, simulate, and measure microwave circuits using the popular NI/AWR Microwave Office® circuit design software and NI LabVIEW/PXI software/hardware measurement tools. The course attracted a record 43 senior and graduate students in 2012 and is slated to become a regular offering within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

AWR’s Microwave Office greatly facilitated the instructor’s explanation of complex concepts such as impedance matching, Smith charts, and constant noise figure circles. Students were able to learn the theory and solve classical problems, as well as use modern RF/microwave tools to verify their analysis and optimize their design. Moreover, based on a series of homework exercises that combined theoretical analyses, designs using AWR tools, and lab experience with NI PXI/LabVIEW, students were able to design, build, and characterize state-of-the-art microwave circuits and systems in their final project.