On October 1, Michael Rahaim (PhD ’13) organized the first New England Workshop for Software Defined Radio (NEWSDR) at Boston University. The conference not only brought his fellow researchers together but also provided SDR exposure to individuals interested in learning more.
Software-defined radio (SDR) is used widely as a tool in radio frequency (RF) communications and is applied in everything from military applications to cell phones. And yet, there aren’t many opportunities for SDR researchers to share their findings or collaborate with others.
As a graduate student in Boston University’s Electrical & Computer Engineering Department, Rahaim works with GNU Radio as part of his SDR research. He realized that though there were a number of researchers studying SDR in Boston, there wasn’t an effective way to bring them together to discuss their projects.
Rahaim expected to have 20-25 attendees at the first workshop, but the event drew in over 40 people. The day included talks on topics ranging from SDR in Education to available SDR hardware. Keynote speaker, Tom Rondeau, is a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and the lead developer and current maintainer of GNU Radio.
SDR permits control of regular system hardware (mixers, amplifiers, etc.) by software on personal computers or embedded computing devices. It also offers a chance for exploration in the area of cognitive radio, which provides an opportunity for spectrum reuse in order to maximize communication efficiency. Rahaim believes that there are three major advantages to using it in RF communications.
“SDR allows students to implement their own physical layer specifications and see them in practice; allows for quick implementation and testing of different physical characteristics; and can be influential in future cognitive radio systems where a system dynamically changes its physical layer to account for unused RF spectrum,” he said.
With support from Professor Thomas Little (ECE), the Center for Information and Systems Engineering (CISE), and the NSF Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center at BU, Rahaim was able to make the necessary connections required to pull the event together.
“Michael has been instrumental in bringing together a community of academics and practitioners from the New England region,” Little said. “Through his leadership, this event was well-attended and brought great exposure to the work of Smart Lighting ERC, CISE, ECE, and our facilities in the Photonics Center.”
While Rahaim organized a stellar event, it would not have been possible without the help of Professor Alex Wyglinski from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Neel Pandeya of Draper Labs.
What’s up next for Rahaim?
“We plan to have the event biannually and will probably hold the next workshop at Northeastern,” said Rahaim. “We will most likely be circling through a few universities and plan to have the event at BU again either next fall or the following spring.”
-Samantha Gordon (COM ’12)