Wireless Networking

Joseph Picone and Michael Lane
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Mississippi State University

We have recently made significant progress towards enhancing the senior design experience for undergraduates in ECE. Two key changes relevant to this proposal are: (1) a requirement to work in teams, typically consisting of three to four students, on large-scale projects; (2) a rigorous documentation process that includes documentation of all aspects of the project via a web site. In conjunction with this, the department has recently modified its computer requirement to specifically require laptops. This is an acknowledgement of the increasing importance of mobile computing to the educational process.

Senior design students have embraced these changes, and now openly acknowledge the importance of working in a collaborative environment. One instantiation of this is often seen around Simrall these days - students working in a cluster around a couple of laptops generating documentation. Few of our labs are designed for such a collaborative learning environment, since most of our labs are designed to provide single-student workspaces or lab benches for hardware experimentation. Hence, it is clear we need to seriously think about migrating our environment to a situation where students are connected in a wireless fashion to the network while they roam the building. This will allow students to take maximum advantage of Simrall facilities, yet not require additional wiring of the building. It will provide them with an ability to interact in groups anywhere in the building, and also interact with their project web sites, on-line documentation, etc.

Our proposal also offers a unique opportunity to pull together computing expertise in ITS (Systems and Networks), ECE (Michael Lane), and ISIP (Joe Picone) to pilot the use of wireless networks in Simrall. All three organizations have an interest in this technology, and are extremely keen on participating in a pilot study. ITS's involvement is particularly crucial, since they have already begun evaluating this technology.

We propose the following pilot study of wireless networking in Simrall: Note that in addition to these costs, ECE is renovating its Senior Design lab to provide interaction areas more conducive to team-related projects.

Wireless networking is still in its infancy. There are some technical issues involved in this project. Namely, hardware is still evolving in terms of functionality, standards, and extensibility. Base station location will take experimentation to determine how best to cover the building. Bandwidth, contention, and other such networking issues must be carefully studies since this technology currently only supports an aggregate bandwidth of 11 MBits/sec. Integration of palmtop computers is a logical next step. The proposed pilot study will be the first of its type at MS State, and help us maintain our leadership position in computing and networking infrastructure. Some of this work should be publishable in the appropriate engineering education journals.

Questions or comments about the material presented here can be directed to the authors at the email addresses above, or to