By Peter Tormey
SPOKANE, Wash. – Electrical engineering Associate Professor Steve Schennum has received a $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation for research to help meet the increasing demand for reliable and secure high-bandwidth wireless communications. The award is Gonzaga’s largest federal research grant ever.
Bandwidth demand is being met with innovative technologies and standards, but the success and proliferation of these systems causes increased wireless interference that inadvertently reduces the reliability and bandwidth of these and adjacent systems. Schennum’s research, titled, “Major Research Instrumentation: Acquisition of Smart Antenna Laboratory Equipment” will provide lab equipment to help innovators address these issues.
Many new wireless standards use multi-antenna techniques to improve efficiency and resulting system bandwidth. As system complexity increases, so does the barrier-to-entry for companies and educational institutions requiring access to the technology required to complete designs and research. Establishment of the lab will help remove this barrier-to-entry.
There is significant interest in Schennum’s research and the existing lab in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, which will benefit from new equipment through this grant.
“There are three companies in the area that are using the lab now, one of which is LHC2, and there seems to be considerable interest in this work coming from students and prospective students as well,” Schennum said. “We believe it will stimulate even more interest in our electrical engineering program.”
In terms of broader impacts, Gonzaga’s Smart Antenna and Radio Laboratory leads to improved reliability for life-critical first responder communications and so-called “smart grid” energy and natural resource management. It provides collaborative research and educational opportunities for faculty and students at the University of Idaho, Washington State University, Eastern Washington University, Spokane Community College, and others in the future.
Wireless technology companies are committed to collaborating with member institutions and utilizing the equipment. Native American summer science and other science, technology, engineering and math-related programs expose at least 1,000 K-12 students annually to Gonzaga’s technologists and labs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.