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UW partners with Agilent Technologies for new equipment

John Sahr

John Sahr -

John Sahr, professor of electrical engineering, demonstrates impedence mismatch with an open circuit on a mobile network analyzer. When impedence is matched, the graph on the device is perfectly sinusoidal. 

Photo by Anastasia Stepankowsky

A new partnership with Agilent Technologies will allow undergrads in UW’s electrical engineering department to explore waveforms in much greater depth.

The measurements company provided four new network analyzers and signal generators in addition to eight “Fieldfox” units that perform similar functions to enhance students’ learning experience at a magnitude the department previously could not afford.

Waves, unlike circuits, are much easier to study in three dimensions. Director of the Center for Applied Microtechnology Bruce Darling said that while signal analyzers of this quality have been available to UW researchers, involving them in dynamic lessons for students presents a particular advantage.

“It’s a totally different type of instrument than oscilloscopes would be for the rest of our undergrad labs,” he said. “The fact that we have a lab here that actually gets them trained on that means that we can put a lot of this stuff to bear on lots of other problems.”

Associate dean of undergraduate affairs John Sahr spent over half a year securing the deal with Agilent. He said the new machines would not only benefit the UW but also education throughout the entire state, because they can be controlled remotely through the Internet. As associate dean, he said he is always looking for opportunities to work with distance learners and community colleges in Washington.

“Even if they can’t put their hands on the physical equipment, they can control it from a distance and take all kinds of measurements as if they were actually in the lab,” he said. “It’s interesting to contemplate being able to have this equipment here in Seattle being available for students to use … on the other side of the mountains.”

Outside of hardware, Agilent is also donating software support in the form of 50 suite licenses that fully utilize the machines’ potential. Although complete software implementation is still underway, Agilent’s director of university business development Bill Wallace said they want to eventually facilitate a program that gives students certification in using the network analyzers.

“The microwave and the RF field is not one you just jump into quickly because it has a lot of training that is needed, much more so than the average specialty in EE,” he said. “It gets [the students] up to speed much quicker because they are training on exactly the same tools as they use in the industry. That makes them more desirable.”

While Agilent has donated to the UW in the past, providing much of the technology in the Embedded Systems Teaching Laboratory, Wallace said UW stands out amongst the institutions they have partnered with.

“We’re particularly delighted in what we’re doing with the University of Washington,” he said. “And we continue to look for areas of mutual collaboration.”

Wave research has applications across a very broad spectrum of interests. From the lowest end of their functionality, the network analyzers can send signals down a damaged cable to pinpoint the malfunction. At higher capacity, they can measure microwave transmission and absorption and electromagnetic current for advanced materials and biomedical purposes.

Reach reporter Alex Otsu at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @AlexOtsu

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