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2 ECE teams face the Spectrum Challenge

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A pair of student teams from Virginia Tech’s electrical and computer engineering program have qualified among the 15 finalists in an international competition to develop strategies for clear communications in spite of interfering signals on a radio channel.

Hume Center's Spectrum Challenge team

The VT-Hume Spectrum Challenge team, from left: Zach Leffke, Marc Lerch, Joseph Gaeddert, Chris Jennette, Daniel DePoy.

Teams from the Hume Center and Wireless @ VT placed 9th and 11th respectively out of 90 competitors in the DARPA Spectrum Challenge qualification round. Virginia Tech is the only university with two teams as finalists.

In addition to the finalist teams, a team from the VT-MENA (Virginia Tech Middle East and North Africa) program qualified as one of 24 teams eligible to compete for three wildcard slots.

The DARPA Spectrum Challenge was organized in response to the problem of growing interference among wireless devices that function in an increasingly congested radio spectrum. While such disruption is merely a nuisance for most users of wireless technologies — taking the form of poor cell phone reception or a slow Internet connection — radio interference can lead to serious consequences during emergencies and other critical situations that demand reliable wireless communications devices.

Wireless@VT's Spectrum Challenge team

The Wireless @VT Spectrum Challenge team (VT CogRad), back row from left: Daniel Jakubisin, Jung-Min (Jerry) Park, Jeff Poston, Vireshwar Kumar; front row: Jason Snyder, Michael Buehrer, SaiDhiraj Amuru.

“The Spectrum Challenge is focused on developing new techniques for assured communications in dynamic environments — a necessity for military and first responder missions,” said Yiftach Eisenberg, DARPA program manager, when announcing the Challenge in December.

The Challenge tasks teams with generating software-defined radio (SDR) protocols that transmit data quickly and accurately in spite of interfering signals. Since all teams must use the same hardware, the focus of the Spectrum Challenge is the strategic development of radio algorithms and protocols.

To qualify for the challenge, teams completed three SDR and GNU tasks. They were judged on the number of bytes correctly received in five minutes once packet transfers were initiated.

Both the preliminary and final tournaments will have two challenges: one competitive and one cooperative. The competitive portion will score teams individually based on their ability to transfer data more quickly than other teams, while the cooperative portion requires teams to work together to share the spectrum most efficiently.

The Hume Center team, called VT-HUME, includes Daniel DePoy, Joseph Gaeddert, Mitch Davis, Zach Leffke, Chris Jennette, Marc Lerch, Michael Fowler, Kris Dixon, and Matt Carrick, and is advised by Charles Clancy and Bob McGwier.

The Wireless @VT team, called VT CogRad, is advised by Michael Buehrer and members include Jeff Poston, Jason Snyder, SaiDhiraj Amuru, Daniel Jakubisin, and Vireshwar Kumar.

The VT-MENA team, called VT-MENA Beacon, is advised by Sedki Riad with Mustafa Nainay of VT-MENA and Alexandria University, Khaled Harras of Carnegie Mellon Qatar, and Moustafa Youssef of EJUST and Alexandria University. Students include Mohamed Ibrahim, Mohammed Karmoose, Karim Habak, Karim Banawan, Ahmed Elbagoury, Yahya Ezzeldin, and Ahmed Saeed.