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Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Honors Student Chooses KU Over Ivy League

Published on May 1st, 2010 by Michelle Ward

While Austin Arnett visited and was accepted to Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, he chose to attend the University of Kansas. It is a decision he would make all over again. In fact, he is. Arnett, who is graduating with honors in EE this May, will begin graduate school at KU this fall. He will focus on radar systems as he pursues a master’s degree in EE.

“It has been a really good experience, which is why I am coming back,” says the El Dorado native. “My professors have been a great resource.”

Arnett points to KU’s outstanding facilities, especially Eaton Hall with its state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories. Among his favorite classes were EECS 622 (Hardware Design) and EECS 502 (Senior design Lab). The former introduces the fundamentals of radio transmission systems, incluAustin Arnettding wireless communication devices and radar. Arnett designed a radio transmission system to meet a given specification. In the Senior Design Lab, Arnett says students must use pieces of each core class to build a system. His team is designing and building an ultrasonic location and tracking system that uses a speaker to transmit two ultrasonic tones at known frequencies.  They process the signals from each receiver and use the difference in phase information of each received signal to locate its exact position.

He says KU was the “best and most affordable option” for him. He received a Summerfield Scholarship as well as renewable scholarships from Garmin, EECS and the School of engineering. An interest in math, science and problem solving led him to EE. Radios and radar have become focus areas for Arnett.

At KU’s Information and Telecommunication Technology Center (ITTC), Arnett is conducting research on radar-embedded communication for his honors project. There is a great need for a reliable covert communication system for soldiers in hostile territory.  Too often, eavesdroppers can intercept messages. EECS Assistant Professor  is developing technology that will enable soldiers’ messages to “piggyback” on existing radar signals. Current covert communication of this type requires hundreds of radar pulses to convey just one communication symbol thus resulting in very low data rates. In contrast, Blunt’s team embeds a communication symbol into each individual radar pulse. Preliminary results suggest the potential for operation at data rates 1,000 times faster than current radar-embedded communication systems while offering at least the same level of security.

“I am looking into the practical implementation of radar-embedded-communication (REC) theory.  Up to now, there have only been computer simulations done to evaluate and test REC ideas,” says Arnett.  “I am using an actual radar system in ITTC’s Radar and Remote Sensing Lab (RSL) to implement and explore challenges faced during implementation.”

“I have been very impressed with Austin’s willingness to go after an unconventional problem,” says Blunt, Arnett’s advisor.  “He has also demonstrated the ability to work independently towards a solution.  These are the hallmarks of a good researcher.”

In addition to being an honor student, Arnett was a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and KU Bowling Team. He served as president during the 2009-2010 bowling season. He notes that KU is a huge campus with numerous clubs and activities. Arnett says it is important to find things you enjoy and get involved. 

“Be proactive and do things ahead of time,” says Arnett when asked what advice he would give to students. “Managing your time is important.”