When I say ‘Smart Antenna lab,’ you should hear ‘highly marketable skills’
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR STEVE SCHENNUM looked like a proud papa, and with every reason. A year ago, Schennum and his collaborators landed a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation. “Big money!” Schennum exclaimed. Specifically for instrumentation, this grant enabled construction and outfitting of the Smart Antenna and Radio Lab in the PACCAR Center. Such labs are often found at major commercial firms, but they are unusual in academic settings. Gonzaga’s is the only such facility in higher education in the Pacific Northwest and is estimated to be one of half a dozen at universities nationwide.
Schennum hosted a gaggle of interested engineers to tour the newly completed research lab during an international conference for wireless communications experts in Spokane this July.
Central to the lab is a steel-enclosed anechoic – or non-echoing – chamber, outfitted with special carbon-rich polyurethane. The chamber blocks out all electronic waves so that antennas can be tested with great precision.
Some of the interest in this lab and much of its research comes from LCH2, an engineering services firm in Liberty Lake, Wash. Gonzaga engineering students have been involved in the design of products now in the marketplace, including new antennas used on Spokane Police Department patrol cars. The antenna’s design allows for virtually no interference.
Since 2007, when he began his wireless research, Schennum has mentored 32 students. That work will continue. A small-business, technology-transfer research grant of $450,000 received from the NSF in July 2010 allows for research and development – and specifically for student research stipends through 2012. Schennum is eager to see what he and his students can produce this year and in the future, working to solve other challenges that arise from the commercial sector.
“These are highly marketable skills – and there’s a lot of growth coming in wireless,” he said. This fall, Schennum begins his 20th year of teaching in Gonzaga’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.