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ECE Undergraduates Pursue Submission of 6th Research Paper


A team of students in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department are working on their 6th technical paper submission- a feat not commonly achieved by students before they graduate.

The undergraduates have worked under the direction of Assistant Professor Willie Harrison to study the process of secure data transfer in high traffic areas. In other words, they are figuring out how to transfer information between sensors in places where there are lots of people, without having to encrypt any of the data.

The team, led by researchers Ben Jensen, Kalin Norman, and Ethan Angerbauer, decided to study this process by setting up stations in the Thomas L. Martin Building on campus. They chose this area since it gets a lot of traffic during the day between class changes and would provide a direct line of site between the sensors.

They set up wireless channels, transmitters, and receiving radios to collect data and measure how the signal changed as people walked around. They tested at different times, both when people were in class and when there were not many people walking by, and again during the class change at 1:50, when there would be a higher amount of traffic.

ECE student Bryan Redd said there is a significant difference in what happens when there are high versus low volumes of people. “The radio sends the same data, but the received (measured) data at 1:50 will be more variable because of the people moving around,” he said.

The group will analyze the data gathered during the experiment and share the results in their research paper. Dr. Harrison said the paper will be “their final contribution to the research here at BYU right before most of them go off to grad school with other universities.”

ECE undergraduate Autumn Twitchell, said there are several applications for the research they are conducting. It can be used for vehicle-to-vehicle communication to possibly help with the development of self-driving cars or to transmit data on crowded freeways.

The project leads also contributed by not only organizing the stations, but by writing the codes and programs that were used. By practicing these skills, Jensen described his work on the project as a culmination of everything he has learned at BYU.

“It’s a satisfying way to wrap everything up with a journal paper; summing up everything else that we’ve done and hopefully making some good contributions,” Jensen said.

Jensen and Norman were part of the original group of students that spearheaded the physical layer security research in 2018. They have passed on what they know to Angerbauer, who will continue the testing and research after they graduate.

Harrison said the group of students and faculty he has worked with on the project are very bright and have interesting ideas of how to continue the research. “Dr. Rice had this idea of encoding the Bible with physical laser security code, putting it on a software defined radio, and just letting it transmit in between class breaks, maybe over in the MARB again,” he said.

Whatever ideas the group goes with to continue their research, there is no doubt they will be successful, given everything they have already accomplished. “This is kind of like their crowning experiment,” Harrison said. “To have this many publications before they even begin as a grad student—It’s incredible.”