Electrical and Computer Engineering seniors excel in space and satellite student competition

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A team of seniors from the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department combined their knowledge and skills to win the Space and Satellites Professionals International (SSPI) student prize competition.  

Kelsey Schneider, the team’s leader, says they designed a satellite radar system to extract and transmit data from one antenna to another. Schneider says the satellite radar systems at space stations contain large and expensive antennas for this purpose. She says space stations use the Synthetic Aperture Radar System – SARS – to monitor a planet’s environment.  

“The goal was to build a low-cost, low-size, weight and power synthetic aperture system,” Schneider said. “Our antennae was only about four inches in diameter.” 

She said the satellite radar system transmits electrical waves and transmits data when the radar detects an object. Then the electrical waves bounce off the object and get sent back to the radar system. The radar then transmits the data through the antennas. They used a computer algorithm to convert the received data into an image.   

Schneider said the hardest part of the competition was finding a balance between the technical and non-technical language used to explain the project to an easy-to-understand presentation. “You can’t be so nontechnical that it just doesn’t make sense,” Schneider said. “You don’t want it to sound silly.”  

The competition featured a variety of competitors, ranging from graduate students to PhD students both competing as teams and individuals.  

“We just felt really grateful. There were a lot of other really good projects and presentations we got to see. So, we were just really honored that they chose us out of the other teams.” 

The competition was hosted by SSPI, who had reached out to Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Peter Pachowicz and Jay Deorukhkar, a PhD student and teaching assistant in the ECE department.  

Deorukhkar was assigned to the team’s senior design class. While looking for projects to nominate, he reached out to Qiliang Li, a professor in the ECE department, who is the faculty advisor for the senior design projects. 

As for how he feels about this team’s win in the SSPI competition: “Since we did not compete last year, it was great to see them participate and win this year."

The team also won the ECE award for their senior design project. The competition took place on May 12, 2022.