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Research Platform Enables Students To Link Theory to Practical Application

A new pair of universal software radio peripheral (USRP) instruments, NI USRP-2920 and NI USRP-2921, from National Instruments has opened the doors for students to test abstract mathematical theory within a real-world environment. Released Wednesday, the devices are part of National Instruments' NI USRP educational platform that also includes NI LabVIEW software and course-specific lab material.

NI USRP technology enables students to explore complex RF and communications theory through hands-on experimentation. The platform has found its place in recent years at institutions conducting research in software-defined and cognitive radio fields. Educators at Stanford University implemented the platform in a lab as part of a pilot course for electrical engineering students. Undergraduates got hands-on experience with engineering concepts as they worked together to design a complete communications system.

"We want to expose students to real-world signals early in their academic careers," said Sachin Katti, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford, in a statement. "With the NI USRP and LabVIEW, we can now provide this exposure in RF and communications courses for the first time, which adds depth to both teaching and learning theoretical concepts."

The NI USRP devices feature a software-tunable front end ranging from 50 MHz to 2.2 GHz or the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz ISM bands. The hardware also integrates a software reconfigurable RF transceiver with high-speed A/D and D/A converters, which makes it possible to stream baseband I and Q signals to a host PC over gigibit Ethernet at up to 20 million samples per second for real-time access to the spectrum.

Institutions can implement the NI USRP platform for teaching and research in digital communications, communication system design, antenna theory, digital modulation, wireless communication, software-defined radio, digital signal processing and information theory. The software reconfigurable platform can also scale for communications experimentation, research, and rapid prototyping.

For pricing details or to learn more about the NI USRP platform, visit National Instruments Web site.

About the Author

Kanoe Namahoe is online editor for 1105 Media's Education Group. She can be reached at knamahoe@1105media.com.

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