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About Hands-on Learning for Novel Solutions to Radio Spectrum Problems


In 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recommended managing radio spectrum in large bands, shared between diverse but compatible users rather than smaller individually licensed bands.[1] The incoming shift toward shared spectrum management will require the Navy as well as other government and commercial entities to update and develop systems in order to use the RF spectrum within the new paradigm. Cognitive radio (CR) can enable such systems to operate in the resulting unpredictable environments. This requires a sizeable, appropriately skilled workforce and to that end we plan to create educational materials for use in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses. The materials will cover key concepts in CR technology, enabling the student to understand CR and implement it themselves.

To maximize the relevance and potential of the materials they will be subject to continuous evaluation throughout the development process by a network of partner academic and Naval institutions. The materials will leverage existing infrastructure at Virginia Tech, including a testbed of CR hardware and CR testing software, to give students hands-on experience. The open access of the testbed to other educational institutions and the free and open nature of the testing software enable a low barrier-to-entry to making use of the materials. Further, the moderate price of setting up hardware for a custom testbed enables flexible ‘at-home organization / institution’ use of the materials as desired. We plan to make the materials freely available with open licensing that enables further improvements and updates, during and beyond the initial project, by any interested institutions.

More information on the ONR grant is available at the Office of Naval Research.

[1] President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), Report to the President: Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth, White house, Washington, DC, 2012.

Principal Investigators

Dr. Carl Dietrich

Associate Research Professor

Dr. DietrichCarl B. Dietrich is a Research Associate Professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech. He and a group of student researchers are investigating novel approaches for test and evaluation (T&E) of cognitive radios, and are pioneering the use of efficient psychometric methods borrowed from the human sciences for T&E of cognitive radios.


Dr. Richard Goff

Associate Professor of Engineering Education

Dr. Goff is a former Navy aircraft structural test engineer. He holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering, and is currently an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Engineering Education at VT.  He was the founding director of the Frith Freshman Engineering Design Laboratory, former Assistant Department Head, former director of the NSF I/UCRC Center for e-Design & former Peace Corps volunteer.