ECE 5325/6325 Team Design Competition

The Team Design Competition allows you to test your skills and creativity in wireless system design against those of your peers. Your system must meet the system performance requirements, but more than that, should be practical, reliable, and as much as possible, have a cost and features that would make the system commercially viable. The better that your system design is in all of these dimensions, the more highly your fellow students will judge your system, and thus the better your team's grade on the competition will be.

Competition Description

In the Spring 2013 competition, you will design a system for text message communication after a major disaster, for example, after a major earthquake, tsunami, or hurricane. This system is motivated by the difficulties experienced in getting emergency help after a major disaster has rendered land-based communications useless in a large radius in the disaster area. For example, after Hurricane Katrina, most land-based communications systems failed immediately or shortly after the disaster [1]; U.S. cellular companies do not believe they should be required to upgrade backup systems so that they reliably operate after a disaster, as seen after Hurricane Sandy [2]. This text message system would provide an alternative method for people to send short messages with the outside world (and perhaps receive replies), including with emergency personnel. As another example, after the March 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, twitter and email became important ways for people to find each other after transportation and cellular systems failed. This system could allow people to send messages announcing where they are, and if they need emergency assistance. This system would potentially allow emergency personnel to coordinate rescue operations.

Design Restrictions

One of the major problems with communications after a disaster is that everyone wants to communicate -- systems become overwhelmed with requested bandwidth and blocked by high traffic. You may, in your system design, restrict people to short text messages (like Twitter's 140 characters, for example), which forces them to communicate only the most critical information. You may restrict the number of messages per user (However, emergency personnel must not have a restriction on the number of messages they may send). In this manner, your system can limit the total bit rate of messages that are being generated.

Your system is allowed to use any ISM band (for example, the 83 MHz of bandwidth from 2400 to 2483 MHz, but see a more complete list for more options). Assuming that this system will be used as an alternative communication system when all power is out, we can assume that 802.11 access points have all failed, cordless phones don't work, and thus the major sources of interference in these bands are gone. You don't necessarily need to meet FCC requirements for ISM band operation -- I assume that if your system is sufficiently beneficial to the public, the FCC would be willing to make an exception for your system during disaster situations.

You may not rely on electric power from the grid -- we can assume power has been lost, and will be out for days or weeks. You may not rely on cellular voice or data systems, or paging infrastructure, or telephone lines, or broadband internet services, anywhere within the disaster area. You may assume that these exist outside of the disaster area.

Whatever (wireless device) equipment (which I term the user device) that you expect people to have in a major disaster, you must ask them to buy it today (not during the disaster). So a very low price for the user device is important, and it should be of a size that they can put in their emergency kit and forget about (until they need it). You might expect a small fraction of people (eg, hospitals, emergency personnel) to own more larger or more expensive equipment, which I refer to as infrastructure devices.

To be specific, when needed in your system design, consider that a major earthquake strikes Salt Lake County, and no ground communications exist in the county, and ground communications are possible but significantly impaired in neighboring counties.

Competition Requirements

Teams will be composed of 2-4 students in the same section (6325 or 5325). If you want to compose a mixed 5325/6325 student team, you will have to compete in the 6325 group.

You will prepare and submit a (pdf) report, and do a oral presentation, describing your system design. In general, your audience is your other students who have taken the same course you have, so you can assume that they understand the basics of wireless communication systems. However, you must do a good job at convincing them that your system will work well. This should include technical specifications of how the system will work:

  1. Description of the user device(s), including components of the hardware
  2. Description of the any communication link, including link budget, modulation, multiple access mechanism, transmit power and receiver sensitivity, etc.
  3. Evaluation of the probability of blocking, or probability that a user's message will be lost by your system
  4. Power source(s) for any user or infrastructure devices
  5. An approximate cost for the devices
  6. Robustness of the system: Why will this system be able to operate after a large-scale disaster?

In addition, your report and presentation must be convincing. Part of your job is to convince the students that people and governments would adopt (pay for) such a system on a large scale. Since we wouldn't want competing systems during an emergency, you should argue that your system is better than any other, and thus should be adopted as the national or international standard.

After submission, team reports will be posted on the web. Then, your team will present a 10 minute presentation to all students. The other students will attend your presentation, and rank the system designs from best to worst. The best-rated design will win its team the 2013 Wireless System Design Competition Bragging Rights. And a higher grade.

Grading Rubrics / Forms

Oral Presentation Grading Form: Students will use this to grade other teams' oral presentations and system designs.

Written Report Grading Rubric: I will use this to grade your written report.

DO NOT plagiarize on your final written report. You must cite all sources, and if any text is copied from a source, it must be in quotes or in a quote block and properly cited. Your report will be automatically checked by Turnitin, a plagiarism detection service, by Canvas when you submit your report. There are severe consequences, and plagiarism is a quick way to earn a 0 on the assignment, for you and your team members. One strategy to avoid plagiarism: don't ever use copy & paste when reading a source, even to a work space. If you want to remember what a source is saying, paraphrase it into a work space in your own words, and save the link so that you can later write up a proper citation.


[1] Robert Miller, "Hurricane Katrina: Communications & Infrastructure Impacts", in Threats at Our Threshold: Homeland Defense and Homeland Security in the New Century, Bert B. Tussing, ed. 21 October 2006. 235 pages. Online:

[2] Susan Crawford, "Why Cell Phones Went Dead After Hurricane Sandy",, Nov 15, 2012 4:30 PM MT. Online: