Date of Award

Winter 2007

Project Type


Program or Major

Electrical Engineering

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Michael J Carter


Different modulation techniques and protocols require a standard communications laboratory for engineering courses to be equipped with a broad set of equipment, tools and accessories. However, the high costs involved in a hardware-based laboratory can become prohibitively expensive for many institutions. Software simulations alone can replicate most real-world applications with much lower costs. Nevertheless, they do not replace the real-world feeling provided by hardware-based systems, which can produce and receive physical signals to and from the exterior media.

Advances in computer technology are allowing software-defined radio (SDR) concepts to be applied in many areas of communications. In this type of system, the baseband processing is performed completely in software while an analog RF front end hardware can be used for RF processing. The use of a software-defined radio platform in a digital communications laboratory can offer the benefits of software simulations coupled with the enthusiasm presented by hardware-based systems.

A low-cost software-defined radio teaching platform implemented in LabVIEW using the personal computer sound card was developed for a digital communications laboratory along with a set of exercises to help students assimilate the concepts involved in communications theory and system implementation. This system allows for the generation, reception, processing, and analysis of signals in a 4 QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) transceiver using the personal computer sound card to transmit and receive modulated signals.

This teaching platform provides the means necessary to explore the theoretical concepts of digital communication systems in a laboratory environment. National Instruments' LabVIEW graphical programming environment allows a more intuitive way of coding, which helps students to spend more time learning the relevant theory concepts and less time coding the applications. Being a flexible and modular system, modifications can be made for optimization and use with different and/or more complex techniques.