Friday feature: Build your own coffee can radar

Our mission at MIT OpenCourseWare is to publish materials from MIT classrooms, which is a big job all by itself. Every once in a while, though, we come across materials not from MIT classes but still in use at the Institute that are just too good to pass up. We have a great collection of these so-called “supplemental resources” on our site, a good example of which is a three week course from the MIT research center Lincoln Laboratory called “Build a Small Radar System Capable of Sensing Range, Doppler, and Synthetic Aperture Radar Imaging.”

Here’s the course description:

Are you interested in building and testing your own imaging radar system? MIT Lincoln Laboratory offers this 3-week course in the design, fabrication, and test of a laptop-based radar sensor capable of measuring Doppler, range, and forming synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images. You do not have to be a radar engineer but it helps if you are interested in any of the following; electronics, amateur radio, physics, or electromagnetics. It is recommended that you have some familiarity with MATLAB®. Teams of three students will receive a radar kit and will attend a total of 5 sessions spanning topics from the fundamentals of radar to SAR imaging. Experiments will be performed each week as the radar kit is implemented. You will bring your radar kit into the field and perform additional experiments such as measuring the speed of passing cars or plotting the range of moving targets. A final SAR imaging contest will test your ability to form a SAR image of a target scene of your choice from around campus; the most detailed and most creative image wins.

This resource has a bit of a cult following. An IEEE Spectrum editor  built and tested a coffee can radar on his own time:

and the materials are used by students like these from UC Davis to build their own radars:

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