WPI Student Projects Could Improve Acoustics, Rail Travel in Denmark

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5305

WORCESTER, Mass.- Two teams of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) electrical engineering majors recently spent 10 weeks at the university's Copenhagen Project Center working on their Major Qualifying Projects (MQPs). The MQP is one of three projects all undergraduates undertake as part of the innovative WPI Plan.

Jaime Schuster of Barranquila, Colombia, who will graduate in February, and Adrien Robenhymer of Manchester, Conn., and Nicholas Sherwood of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who will receive their degrees in May, focused on developing a way for intercity rail passengers to have high-speed Internet access during their train ride. Their project sponsor was Atkins Denmark Inc., a consulting house that specializes in technology connected to rail travel.

Traveling by rail is common in Denmark, especially during the workweek, when thousands of professionals use the Danish State Railway Agency (DSB) for business travel and to commute. Banestyrelsen, the Danish rail infrastructure authority, recognized that many people could make better use of this time if they could access the Internet to e-mail clients, download files, or even engage in videoconferences. To date, no one has developed a system that can provide passengers on moving trains with the real-time, high-bandwidth Local Area Network (LAN) features available in office buildings.

For their MQP, Schuster, Robenhymer and Sherwood critically examined all available options and developed and executed a series of trials to test the limits and capabilities of high-speed communication between a stationary access point that transmitted its signal using a cavity antenna along a vehicle's pathway and a moving vehicle equipped with a wireless bridge connected to an omnidirectional antenna. The overall goal was to prove that an 802.11WLAN system could be used to provide a high transfer rate to a roaming target moving at speeds up to 120Km/h.

The students' results indicated that a high-speed, always on system for rail passengers would work if implemented correctly. The students also identified the capabilities and limitations of such a system. Henry Martensen, head of the Telecommunications Department at Atkins Denmark, forwarded the project report to the Danish Railway Agency and Atkins UK, where it will be evaluated for possible implementation.

Seniors William Espinola of Windsor, Mass., Jeremy Labbe of Auburn, Maine, and Scott Lombard of Berwick, Pa., developed an effective method for measuring the properties of acoustic devices and the response of acoustic environments. This team's sponsor was Brel & Kjr, a world-renowned firm that develops test equipment to measure noise and vibration.

For their project, the students designed and tested a Maximum Length Sequence (MLS) analyzer, a device used to measure the impulse response and frequency response of a loudspeaker or other acoustic device or an acoustical environment such as a concert hall. The team completed a mathematical

Analysis of the MLS method and investigated the most efficient ways to implement the software, which was required to run on a Windows 2000 platform. The students established impulse response and energy measurements, such as windowing and other software add-ons for alternative signal processing. The acoustic responses measured with the MLS analyzer they developed were close to those obtained with other systems in use at Brel & Kjr.

"It is a great experience for students to tackle engineering problems with real-world practical considerations and, at the same time, become enriched through living and functioning in a different culture," says Peder C. Pedersen, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who directs the Denmark MQP Project Program.

Founded in 1865, WPI was a pioneer in technological higher education. Early on, it developed an influential curriculum that balanced theory and practice. Since 1970, that philosophy has been embodied in an innovative outcomes-oriented undergraduate program. With a network of project centers that spans the globe, WPI is also the leader in globalizing technological education. WPI awarded its first advanced degree in 1898. Today, most of WPI's academic departments offer master's and doctoral programs and support leading-edge research in a broad range of areas. WPI's approach to education has prepared generations of problem solvers whose new ideas and inventions have literally changed the world. They include Robert Goddard '08, father of modern rocketry, Harold Black, inventor of the principle of negative-feedback; Carl Clark, inventor of the first practical airbag safety systems; Richard T. Whitcomb, formulator of the Area Rule and developer of the supercritical wing, and Dean Kamen, inventor of the first wearable drug-infusion pump and the stair-climbing wheelchair.