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Introduction to Antenna Basics

Introduction to some of the fundamentals of radio frequency engineering required for basic antenna design.

Instructors Karen RuckerKaren Rucker
Thursday, May 6, 2021 06:30 pm EDT - Thursday, June 3, 2021 06:30 pm EDT Local time zone:
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The live session of this course has ended but stay tuned for online Videos!


Course Overview:

This course is a basic introduction to common types of antenna design and some of the fundamentals of radio frequency engineering it requires. It is designed to reflect first-year lessons a professional antenna design engineer might learn on the job.

Prerequisites: Some basic electrical engineering knowledge in electromagnetic fields and circuits would be helpful, though not required.

Software/ hardware: None

Certificate: HackadayU is proud to offer a Certificate of Completion for this course. Students will complete a series of quizzes to receive a badge.

About the instructor: Karen Rucker is a spacecraft radio frequency engineer with a background in antenna design. She has a B.S. in electrical engineering, focused in microwave and antenna design. She holds an amateur extra radio class license and has given numerous talks on amateur radio topics, such as 3D printing antennas.

Final Quiz Link

The final quiz is 10 questions, and a Certificate of Completion will be given to everyone who successfully completes this quiz by June 30th.

Week 5_ Microwave Antenna Design.pdf

Slides from Week 5 of class

Adobe Portable Document Format - 685.26 kB - 06/04/2021 at 00:25

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Week 4_ Planar Antenna Design.pdf

Slides from Week 4 of class

Adobe Portable Document Format - 848.89 kB - 05/27/2021 at 23:53

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Week 3_ Wire Antenna Design.pdf

Slides from Week 3 of class

Adobe Portable Document Format - 2.72 MB - 05/25/2021 at 01:26

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Week 2_ Intro to Antenna Testing.pdf

Slides from Week 2 of class, with additional info about scattering nomenclature (slide 8) and clearer return loss ratio (slide 9)

Adobe Portable Document Format - 1.32 MB - 05/14/2021 at 00:22

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Adobe Portable Document Format - 765.32 kB - 05/08/2021 at 17:58

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  • Week 1

    Karen Rucker03/29/2021 at 14:31 0 comments

    Introduction to radio frequency engineering for antennas. Topics covered will be, but are not limited to: electromagnetic waves, impedance matching, polarization, gain, and frequency bands.

    Class 1 unedited video:

  • Week 2

    Karen Rucker03/29/2021 at 14:32 2 comments

    Introduction to antenna testing. Topics covered will be, but are not limited to: the far field, VSWR, network analyzers, and s-parameters.

    Class 2 unedited video:

  • Week 3

    Karen Rucker03/29/2021 at 14:32 2 comments

    Introduction to wire antenna design. Topics covered will be, but are not limited to: dipoles, helixes, and yagis.

    Class 3 unedited video:

  • Week 4

    Karen Rucker03/29/2021 at 14:33 2 comments

    Introduction to planar antenna design. Topics covered will be, but are not limited to: slots, patches, and vivaldis.

    Class 4 unedited video:

  • Week 5

    Karen Rucker03/29/2021 at 14:33 0 comments

    Introduction to microwave antenna design. Topics covered will be, but are not limited to: horns, reflectors, waveguides and microwave frequencies.

    Class 5 unedited video:

View all 5 course classes

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Discussions

WarleyS wrote 06/09/2021 at 01:32 point

Karen, thank you again for the great lessons! 
A question about the certificate: I've completed the quiz with 10/10 grade. When the certificate will be available?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Lutetium wrote 06/09/2021 at 18:05 point

Hi Warley, congratulations on completing the quiz! The certificates will be sent out starting next week, and all certificates will be sent by the first week fo July.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 06/04/2021 at 00:27 point

NASA JPL's Telecommunications Link Design Handbook in all of its *900 PAGES* of glory: https://deepspace.jpl.nasa.gov/dsndocs/810-005/Binder/810-005_Binder_Change56.pdf

  Are you sure? yes | no

Michael wrote 06/04/2021 at 00:14 point

Thank you for doing the class.   I learned some new things.   

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 06/04/2021 at 00:27 point

Thank you Michael!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Hal_Ferguson78 wrote 06/03/2021 at 23:42 point

Great class Karen (and HackaDay U).  Thanks much for taking the time to make your knowledge available.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 06/04/2021 at 00:27 point

Thanks! :-)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 06/03/2021 at 21:17 point

Hi folks - I found a write-up of the calibration and operation, with a full listing of the available kinds of measurement per number of ports, of the NanoVNA that is better than anything I could write: https://www.bwcelectronics.com/articles/NanoVNA%20User%20Guide.pdf 

There's also a link to the free software program developed by HexAndFlex in the PDF to change settings on the NanoVNA after you've calibrated, that looks easier than working the tiny touch screen on the VNA.

  Are you sure? yes | no

lilesw wrote 05/28/2021 at 18:04 point

You can see a presentation about the dual band slot antenna using a TV satellite dish on YouTube at https://youtu.be/mH9_xW_QvVk

Bill, NQ6Z

  Are you sure? yes | no

lilesw wrote 05/28/2021 at 15:33 point

slot stealth 2 meter antenna

Folks, slot antennas can be used to conceal an actual antenna.  John Portune, W6NBC, used a slot to conceal a 2 meter amateur radio band antenna into a small TV dish antenna. The article,  “An Efficient 2 Meter Antenna Disguised as a TV Satellite Dish,” is in the March 2016 issue of QST with a follow up in the May 201 6 issue. This design has since been extended for dual band use by cutting two slots into the TV satellite  dish. 

Bill, NQ6Z

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 05/27/2021 at 23:52 point

Hi class - we had some questions about mods for SDRs to work at lower frequencies (<1 MHz). Apparently the RTL-SDR.com V3 dongle tunes down to 500 kHz (https://www.rtl-sdr.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Digital_Modes_Now_And_In_The_Future_RTLSDR.pdf) but please comment if you're familiar!

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lilesw wrote 05/21/2021 at 03:20 point

My post about NEC modeling tools contains an error. NEC was developed at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. Sorry for the error. 

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sheppler wrote 05/21/2021 at 00:45 point

Interesting 3D printed helical antenna design ppt - 052021:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329717074_3D_Printed_Helical_Antenna_Design

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 05/20/2021 at 23:48 point

The weatherproofing "goop" that I couldn't remember the name of in class was clear RTV silicone adhesive sealant. Great video on weatherproofing options here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcHiHCw0lsY

  Are you sure? yes | no

lilesw wrote 05/20/2021 at 23:44 point

Week 3 covered wire antennas. Good free antenna modeling programs for wire antennas include 4nec2 (https://www.qsl.net/4nec2/), MMANA-GAL (main page - http://gal-ana.de/, page for free version - http://gal-ana.de/basicmm/en/) and cocoaNEC (http://www.w7ay.net/site/Applications/cocoaNEC/). 4nec2 and MMANA-GAL are for windows machines. through 4nec2 runs under wine on Linux and Macs, prior to Catalina. cocaNEC runs on Macs.

MMANA-GAL is available in German, Russian, Bulgarian, Japanese, Spanish, Servian, Dutch and Czech.

All three of them run the NEC2 modeling program developed by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories, They are basically GUIs to the NEC2 model. MMANA-GAL also has another model included as well.

Another very good program that uses the NEC2 engine is EZNEC (eznec,,com).  Different versions are available for different prices.

NEC version 4 and NEC version 5 are both available from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories. They are much better for handling wires near the ground, on the ground and buried. EZNEC, 4nec2 and cocoaNEC can all use the NEC v4 engine. NEC V4 and NEC V5 both cost money.

For NEC V5 see
https://ipo.llnl.gov/technologies/software/nec-v50-numerical-electromagnetic-code

Bill, NQ6Z

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 05/20/2021 at 23:50 point

Thanks Bill!

  Are you sure? yes | no

WarleyS wrote 05/16/2021 at 23:57 point

Hi, I also missed the last thursday class due to personal reasons. I've came here but the video isn't listed at Week 2 topic. It will be available sometime?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 05/17/2021 at 13:18 point

Yep! The unedited video for class 1 was posted shortly after the weekend. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Lutetium wrote 05/18/2021 at 15:53 point

The second class video is available to watch now: https://youtu.be/Kz81Tp7NNaU

  Are you sure? yes | no

David Wheeler wrote 05/14/2021 at 15:21 point

I missed class yesterday and was looking for the video to be posted on Youtube.  This morning it says the third video was added but it shows as private.  If that's the class video, can someone look into fixing the access controls?  Thanks.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 05/17/2021 at 13:17 point

Hi David, I haven't seen the unedited video from last week's class yet. I expect it should be posted soon, but I did forward your message to the team to make sure there are no access control issues. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

David Wheeler wrote 05/17/2021 at 14:43 point

Thanks, Karen.  I still don't see it either and now the playlist says there are 4 videos, 2 being hidden.  I dunno.  I'll keep checking.  Hopefully I can catch the second class before the third one this week.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 05/17/2021 at 16:04 point

just heard from Hackaday- class 2 video will be uploaded tomorrow

  Are you sure? yes | no

Lutetium wrote 05/18/2021 at 15:54 point

The second class video is available to watch now: https://youtu.be/Kz81Tp7NNaU

  Are you sure? yes | no

David Wheeler wrote 05/19/2021 at 23:44 point

Thanks very much.  I watched it this evening and I'm glad to be caught up in time for the next one!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Michael wrote 05/14/2021 at 05:19 point

First of all, thank you for doing this course.  I only recently learned about hackaday and I think I am going to really enjoy it.   

The book by Bowick is relatively low cost and also has lots of good stuff on impedance matching - it is not a complete RF resource, but does a mostly good job on what it does cover.  The section on Smith Charts seems easy to follow.    The book by Gonzales is awesome and worth the price, but even as a used paperback my copy was more than $100 a few years ago - great resource though if you want to understand more about microwave amplifier design, and there is good coverage on Smith Chart.   Amazing tool if you understand all the tricks.  Wish I did.  

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 05/13/2021 at 23:44 point

Thanks to the user during class that recommended the following for textbooks covering Smith Charts - 

RF Circuit Design by Bowick, Christopher

Microwave Transistor Amplifiers: Analysis and Design by Gonzalez, Guillermo 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Patrick Clark wrote 05/13/2021 at 18:36 point

This question may be too far afield, but I was wondering the instructor, or anyone else who also has expertise, might have some insight. 

Let's say I have a radar on a satellite orbiting the Earth and I want it to achieve a minimum spatial resolution, say 10 km. 

I assume a larger radar aperture has better its spatial resolution. I also assume the more power my radar draws from the satellite's solar panels, the better resolution I get and the closer my satellite is from a given target, the better the resolution gets.

Is there a formula that relates these factors to allow for one to adjust them to find a preferred balance for a given mission? 

Are there any other factors at play that would be a part of such a formula? 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Shaunak De wrote 05/13/2021 at 23:20 point

Dear Patrick,

As far as I am aware, the spatial resolution for a real aperture radar is linked to the antenna dimensions (most directly - the beamwidth). To get a high spatial resolution, you probably would want to build a synthetic aperture radar (which basically extends the length of your physical antenna with math). If you have access to the book "Microwave Remote Sensing by Ian Woodhouse" - it covers this without getting down too much into details. The power radiated by the sensor has more to do with its radiometric resolution and the kinds of targets you can discern. 

This page also has a pretty good overview: 
- https://earth.esa.int/web/guest/missions/esa-operational-eo-missions/ers/instruments/sar/applications/radar-courses/content-3/-/asset_publisher/mQ9R7ZVkKg5P/content/radar-course-3-real-aperture-radar
- https://earthdata.nasa.gov/learn/backgrounders/what-is-sar
SDe 

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Patrick Clark wrote 05/15/2021 at 01:50 point

Thank you for the reply and for the links.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 05/12/2021 at 22:37 point

Hey class - wanted to pass along a cheap open-source antenna simulation & modeling software - requires Windows 10, includes a 10-day free trial and subscription price of US$25 per month for hobbyist use (no live engineering support). Write-up on RTL-SDR: https://www.rtl-sdr.com/cenos-launches-affordable-and-easy-to-use-simulation-software-for-antenna-design/

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 05/08/2021 at 18:03 point

Thanks to @lilesw for catching my error on slide 5 of week 1 - isotropic antennas have a gain of 1.0 *linear* so 0 dB, because 10log10(1/1)=0. Corrected slides posted!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Joe Freeman wrote 05/07/2021 at 16:56 point

My apologies for missing the first class last night. I had some unexpected travel come up and didn't get back until late. I'm currently watching the video to catch up.

Just as an introduction,  I've been involved in network engineering for about 25 years now. Prior to that, I worked on the bench as a Test, Measurement, and Diagnostic Equipment Tech in the military and on a couple of different defence contracts after I got out. I focused primarily on micro and millimeter wave test equipment - signal generators, network analyzers,  spectrum analyzers, power meters, etc. I've also had my ham ticket for 26 years now.

Currently, I'm researching and developing a plan to build an amateur earth station capable of RX signals from the various operations on and around Mars. My last RF project was a somewhat smaller and less ambitious station that rx's and decodes images from the GOES-16 satellite.

I look forward to the rest of class and learning more about antenna design!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karen Rucker wrote 05/11/2021 at 21:15 point

That's great Joe - you'll be able to pick out everything I say wrong in the next class, which covers testing! :-)

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