Tech Smart Antenna Wins Americas Competition in TI Challenge
TA team of Tech students won $1,000 for winning the Americas competition in the Texas Instruments DSP Solutions Challenge. From left: FAculty advisor Jeff Reed, with team members Keith Blankenship, Zeeshan Siddiqi, Neiyer Correal, Kim Phillips, and Zhong Hu. (Photo by Steve Schneider Photography)
With a design for an innovative smart antenna for wireless communications, a team of Virginia Tech electrical engineering graduate students won the Americas competition in the 1998 Texas Instruments DSP Solutions Challenge.
The Tech team was named one of three finalists in the world competition, which was won by a team from the University of Perugia in Italy. The Italian team won the grand prize of $100,000 with a design for high quality/interactive television broadcasting. Tech and the other finalist team from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore each received a $10,000 prize award.
TI received 273 entries from more than 800 students in 26 countries. Submittals were judged for their overall creativity, practicality and repeatability, difficulty, completeness, professionalism, and operability.
The Virginia Tech antenna is based on a DSP chip that is able to manipulate the shape of the array beam pattern through signal processing. Unlike conventional omnidirectional antennas that pick up signals from all directions equally, the adaptive array uses many antenna elements. By appropriately combining the signal received at each antenna, the array can point, without moving, to virtually any desired direction under the control of the DSP processor.
Team members demonstrate their design with a picture of the antenna gain, which shows a virtual picture of the direction the antenna is pointing. The students walk around lab with a transmitter and the virtual antenna follows them.
The Tech adaptive antenna array electronically adjusts to the direction from which the signal is coming, explained Jeff Reed, the team's faculty advisor. "There are no moving parts," he said. "By focusing only on the transmitting antenna, the antenna is able to reject more interference and multipath," he said.
"For cellular telephone systems, this means huge increases in capacity, improved signal quality, and lowered costs for users," he added. The design would also allow cellular telephone customers more talk time by using battery power more efficiently.
"Our designs are relatively inexpensive to implement and compatible with existing equipment of both users and wireless service providers," said Kim Phillips, team leader. "The implementation can be scalable: it's easy to add as many antennas as needed."
The student team brought a wide range of engineering skills to the project. "Our project required many areas of expertise: systems engineering, DSP theory and programming, and hardware interfacing, to name a few," Phillips said. "These critical skills are highly desired in the engineering profession," she added.
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