Bottom line, I love the GNU Radio project, but the world of SDR has a long
way to go. It started mostly, and still is largely, with military money. We
are just now seeing it as a commercial and hobbyist possibility. That means
that much of the work comes from the military and the big contractors.
Getting more students involved is nothing short of a good thing. If the GNU
Radio community wants to get involved, too, I think everyone would be happy.
This is about the future of SDR and communications, and I for one would like
to see as many students get their hands on this stuff as possible and
provide the necessary cooperation and competition to push it to new heights.
Thanks, and I'll get rid of my soapbox now.
[mailto:address@hidden On Behalf Of Lamar
Sent: Thursday, May 18, 2006 6:16 PM
To: John Gilmore; address@hidden
Subject: RE: [Discuss-gnuradio] SDR Design Competition
[You know, I might get flamed for this, but here goes....]
From: address@hidden on behalf of John
It looks like an incredible amount of work, under really picky and
idiotic rules, solving problems so challenging that there *isn't* any
commercial gear that does it, at any price. For an unknown and
probably tiny reward. And to hand it all over to somebody else to
Looking over the rules, FAQ, and phases, this looks pretty normal, having
dealt with engineering academia before (for PARI, and during my own senior
year 17 years ago).
The purpose of these challenges is education of the students in practices
found in the industry. Whether those practices are correct or not is not
even relevant, as industry practices are what they are. The student is
getting the use of the development tools of the sponsors for free during the
scope of the challenge; it is an extremely good educational opportunity from
the educational point of view, and provides valuable people networking for
the students involved. This sort of challenge mirrors the processes by
which industrial electrical engineering is actually done, not how we (myself
included) wishes it were done.
The rules and projects are ordinary in terms of actually engineering
industry practice, in my experience. Reading through the sample challenges,
and understanding that Matlab, Simulink, and all of Xilinx's tools will be
made available, I don't see any of the challenges that would be too
difficult for a team of bright engineering juniors and seniors.
To give you an example, here at PARI we just finished a two semester
mechanical engineering project with NC A&T University. In one year, the
students developed programs, techniques, skills, and processes to measure,
model, and change the balance of our 26 meter radio telescopes, each of
which weight over 300 tons. The one is bottom heavy, and the other top
heavy. For obvious reasons they began with the bottom heavy dish, and
measured torques, calculated moments, centers of mass, and weights, and then
recommended not only how much weight to remove, but the ideal (using finite
element analysis) weights to remove. The upper axis had 2,200 pounds of
lead counterweight removed, and the lower axis around 6,000 pounds. Oh, and
the students had to design the fixtures to remove the weights, and actually
help remove weights.
There were five students, and they completed all of the modelling and 50% of
the physical work (they hadn't counted on rust, for instance, on the three
inch bolts (not length; diameter!) holding the weights to the structure).
But the bottom heavy dish is now much less bottom heavy (we wanted to keep
it stable, and not try to perfectly balance it; but they could have made the
A team of five students can accomplish amazing things.
(They won't accept work that has been released under a public license,
such as the GPL or even the BSD license. If you spend two years
writing this stuff, they will *own* it at the end, and you won't even
be able to keep working with or evolving your own software or
hardware. And you won't be paid for any of this.)
And just what is wrong with any of this? The sponsors provide tools; the
students use them for no charge, and get recognition, valuable experience,
and a great time. That is, unless you want a blob of
Matlab/Simulink/Xilinx-centric code running around that requires those
tools. The scoring is weighted towards those solutions that use the
sponsors' products (this is normal industry practice, too; put up the money,
and you make the rules).
You know, if the GNUradio Project wanted to sponsor such a contest and
provide USRP's for each team, then the GNUradio project can set the rules of
license. I would love seeing that, actually. By the way, I personally own
two USRP's; our technical director owns one; and PARI owns four. So I
certainly believe in what the GNUradio project is about; but seeing an
antagonistic attitutde towards a normal educational senior project baffles
If we are going to change engineering practice, we have to get students
using the tools. To get them using the tools incentives have to be
provided. Although, there are quite a few students using the GNUradio
Not directed at John, but to Al: none of these students or their faculty
deserve the epithet 'suckers.'
Director of Information Technology
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
1 PARI Drive
Rosman, NC 28772
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