ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

Undergrad gains DSP experience
Through BAE Systems program

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Wheelock

Undergraduate Gary Wheelock (EE '08) in ECE's Digital Signal Processing Research Laboratory

Gary Wheelock, (EE '08) was honored with a $2,000 stipend from BAE Systems, of Rockville, Maryland for his work in digital signal processing (DSP) this past year.

Wheelock proposed and completed an independent research project using a DSP board to develop a BPSK (binary phase-shift keying) transmitter and receiver and to measure the bit-error-rate of the system.

The equipment and stipend were funded by BAE Systems in an effort to encourage more undergraduate students to gain hands-on signal processing experience. BAE is a global defense and aerospace company with sales exceeding $31.4 billion in 2007.

While working on the research project in ECE’s Digital Signal Processing Research Laboratory (DSPRL), Wheelock found that diving head-first into a project can get messy.

He said his biggest challenge was overcoming his lack of specific background. “I dove right in head-first with no good starting place,” he said. “Things got messy, so I backed off and decided to implement a simple design based on my experience, then build from that.”

Developing the transmitter required dealing with issues in sampling, carrier recovery, filtering, synchronization, and bit detection. “There are multiple ways to implement a receiver — all ranging in complexity.” Before completing the project, he hoped to develop a synchronous receiver and possibly implement pulse shaping to help limit bandwidth.

As a result of his experience, he feels more confident to tackle an unknown project. But the most fun, he says, was finally understanding the details of the board and the system. “Once you understand it, it’s more fun. You can play around with the system, tweak it, add parts: basically make it your own. This is almost mine.”

Undergraduate students interested in the DSP program should contact Leslie Pendleton (pendlek@vt.edu), in the ECE advising office or Louis Beex (beex@vt.edu), director of the DSPRL. Initial funding from BAE is available for three additional students.