University of Madrid Empowers Students to Master RF Circuit Design Concepts Using NI AWR Software
The Signal Theory and Communications Department (TSC) of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM), Spain, has as one of its main objectives the creation and dissemination of knowledge in the field of signal theory. UPM TSC is a reference university in Spain for technical engineering training in the electrical, telecommunications, and audio-visual fields. Different research groups within the TSC work on Spanish national and European projects, as well as in research and development of IC prototypes in cooperation with commercial firms. One of the most popular areas of study within the department is the design of high-frequency circuits using microstrip technology.
The Design Challenge
One of the main challenges for students in the third year of their degree is to apply the theoretical concepts to the practical design of circuits and systems. Specifically, problems arise when students begin designing matching networks with distributed elements (transmission lines), filters, switches, or amplifiers in microstrip technology. Consequently, a group of teachers led by Dr. Vicente González has developed two courses in the field of high-frequency technology and electromagnetism that include a set of exercises of notable experimental nature. These laboratory exercises are divided into eight design projects and the students dedicate 48 hours to laboratory work, which is distributed across a single semester (twelve weeks).
The laboratory exercises are aimed at enabling students to learn the design of RF circuits with microstrip technology using high-frequency design software for the circuit and electromagnetic simulation. This is not an easy task since close to 50 students are typically enrolled in the course each semester. In order to organize this large group size of students, teams of up to 10 persons are organized for each laboratory session. Then, each group is subdivided into working teams of two students that have the task of completing the design of the assigned circuits. The simulation and manufacturing of a set of eight circuits is done during the two semesters that the course lasts.
The circuit design software used for this challenging course is NI AWR Design Environment™/ Microwave Office with AXIEM EM simulation for the practice fulfilment. Microwave Office, according to the teachers’ criteria, is the best tool for improving students’ design expertise during the course and ensuring a high percentage of success in the performances of the resulting designs. Microwave Office has been used for 14 years UPM TSC classes because students are able to quickly become proficient in using key design features such as layout, network import, simulation, and interpretation of results.
Why NI AWR Design Environment
Dr. González and his teaching team at TSC have found NI AWR Design Environment/Microwave Office software to be an irreplaceable tool for educational purposes. The software’s visual presentation makes it easier to teach theoretical design aspects that are difficult to comprehend, such as impedance matching and the parasitics of components.
TSC has a secured server for the students that allows them to use the NI AWR software’s educational licenses from their personal computers. This enables the students to work on their designs at home and the teachers to track and evaluate the time and effort of the students through the use of these licenses.
Thanks to the donation of education software from NI (formerly AWR Corporation), TSC is able to help its students master the complexities and challenges of RF circuit design.
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