Changing the way we listen

By By Paige Fieldsted

By Paige Fieldsted

A group of electrical engineering students at the U were recently chosen as finalists in the Smart Radio Challenge, an international competition in which teams of students develop and test high-tech radios. The teams began working on their Smart Radio designs in January.

Traditionally, radios and other communication devices operate on a fixed frequency. Smart Radios would be able to sense their environment and find a frequency based on the needs of the operator. For example, whenever a cell phone network is too busy, a call is usually dropped. The technology in Smart Radios would make it possible for cell phones to find and use open frequencies.

The U team — Peiman Amini, Salam Akoum, Xuehong Mao, Ehsan Azarnasab and Harsha Rao — was chosen as one of seven finalist teams for its proposal. During the competition, the U team’s radio was able to sense a band of frequencies from 460.5 to 468.5 MHz.

“We are so pleased with our performance, because we were facing some very advanced teams,” said Azarnasab, a first-year doctoral student.

The team will move on in the competition next year with a different challenge. The group will work on developing a system that can determine the amount and type of radio frequencies being used in a given area.

“We are going to look into the usage of the spectrum at different times of day or days of the week at various locations on campus,” said Behrouz Farhang-Boroujeny, an electrical engineering professor who served as the team’s adviser.

The team’s findings and developments will be presented and judged at the Smart Radio Challenge ’08 in Washington, D.C., next November.