Published: 4 January 2021

Tom Moody collects his runner-up prize. Image credit: UKESF

Final year electronic engineering student Tom Moody has been announced as a runner-up in a national Radio Frequency Engineering and Communications Competition with an ambitious individual project at the University of Southampton.

Tom designed, simulated and fabricated four Frequency Reconfigurable Patch Antennas during his MEng Electronic Engineering project, which followed two summer internships with Meggitt Avionics.

Radio Frequency (RF) engineering creates high frequency systems and circuits, with a strong dependence on electromagnetic design and simulation.

The UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF) 2020 RF Engineering and Communications Competition, run in partnership with the Radio Communications Foundation (RCF) and with support from Leonardo, highlights the achievements of major individual projects in the field from partner universities.

“I love working and studying in RF and am thrilled my work has been recognised by the UKESF and RCF,” Tom says. “RF design is very important to modern electronics with the latest developments catering for the reduction in component cost and size required for the ever-increasing frequency of communications systems, such as with millimetre wave 5G.

“RF engineering also plays a key role in sensing systems, such as the development of compact scanning RADAR units for the automotive industry. This technology was until recently confined to specialist applications, such as defence, but is now making its way into family cars thanks to the latest fast and exciting developments.”

Tom’s third-year project developed antennas that can be electronically reconfigured to tune to different frequencies.

Many modern smart devices utilise multiple communication bands for different communication protocols, either requiring several individual antennas designed for each band, or a wideband or multiband antenna design.

Tom’s alternative, electronically-tuneable antenna can be adaptively tuned to the active frequency band while maintaining the high selectivity characteristic of narrowband antennas, potentially lowering cost and space requirements.

The prizewinning project produced four antenna designs on a common FR-4 printed circuit substrate.

Tom has spent two placements at Meggitt Avionics during his degree through a UKESF scholarship. The industrial scholarships, which were awarded to a record-breaking number of Southampton students this spring, offer invaluable industry experience alongside an annual bursary and a place on a residential UKESF Scholar Workshop. In return, scholars carry out electronics outreach work each year, such as by giving a talk at a local school.

“I have worked on various tasks over my placements, such as the development of automated EMC pre-compliance testing and the development of gamma calibration software for avionics display screens,” Tom says. “I would strongly recommend the UKESF Scholarship scheme to Southampton undergraduates due to the wide-spanning benefits and the work experience.”

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