Communications Group

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This Group develops and applies communications technology to meet specialized service and education-oriented needs for underprivileged people. Project work includes software and hardware development, device interface and compatibility issues, battery life, display technology, information & database management issues, etc.


  • Become licensed Amateur Radio Operators at the Technician, General and Advanced Levels,
  • Meet the needs of clients with low cost, high quality, effective solutions appropriate to the context of the application (i.e., geographical, social, economic, legal, etc.),
  • Research, experiment with communications technology to explore how communications technology is and should be used in today's world.


Develop student knowledge, skills and experience with modern communications technology by designing and adapting systems to meet the specific needs of a client, including the particular human, geographic and other significant aspects of the application context.


Meeting Location:

All Collaboratory Meeting - Mondays 6 pm - Frey 110

Group Meeting - Mondays 6:45pm - Frey 266


Current projects

Wireless Enabled Remote Co-presence (WERC) is an assistive technology system for socially and/or cognitively challenged individuals. WERCware permits a remote coach, trainer or attendant care provider to see and hear what the client sees and hears, in real time.

With enough student participation, the main part of the 2013-2014 phase of the WERCware project will be to aid in a study of the functionality and use of the current WERCware prototype along with research of different aspects of the final version of WERCware. This includes - but is not limited to - an automatic shutoff for private areas, interfacing Arduinos with smartphones, and researching the possibility of different biological sensors.

Click the link above for more details.

FTMS is a continuation of a series of three Engineering Senior Projects, known as Alternative Aviation Solutions (AAS). Currently, students are exploring an upgraded version of JAARS AFFS capable of communicating flight data and messages via satellite link. See details of previous project work below, in the Past Projects section.

The Communications Group is the most recent group to join the Collaboratory. This project provides funds and materials to recruit students to this new group. Current topics under this heading include an antenna mount on the roof of Frey Hall, antenna farm development at Messiah College, RF bounce for gamma ray detection, VSAT research and development, communication with Ethiopian students at Mekelle Institute of Technology (MIT), and Amateur Radio contests.

Future projects

The Communications group will continue developing its current projects. The group will also attempt to incorporate new project ideas as outlined in the Growing the Communications Group wiki page.

Past projects

  • Alternative Aviation Solutions:

AAS 2008 was a third-year continuing project exploring opportunities to better serve mission aviation through low-cost alternative communications and flight tracking systems. An Engineering Department senior design project of Messiah College, the AAS 2008 team consisted of three senior engineering students and a faculty adviser. The project intended to serve pilots and personnel of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) through the shared coordination and expertise of JAARS. The project team also received guidance from Cary Cupka, formerly Research and Development Coordinator for Mission Safety International (MSI), to coordinate efforts between organizations by suggesting standards that benefit a broader clientèle and maintain safety. Marten Beels, a graduate of Messiah College and member of the AAS 2006 project team, also aided the team as a consultant.

AAS 2008 sought to develop a combined flight tracking and text-based communications package using Codan high frequency (HF) New Generation Transceivers (NGTs), a standard for the fleet of aircraft owned by MAF. As recommended by MSI, AAS 2008 pursued a solution that built upon existing technology owned by JAARS, known as the Automatic Flight Following System (AFFS). Thus, in cooperation with JAARS, AAS 2008 sought to upgrade components necessary to ensure the future manufacturing of the AFFS Control Unit (CU), while also removing its pair of Pactor-II modems for interoperability with the digital Computer Interface Command Set (CICS) native to this line of Codan HF transceivers. Specifically, this entailed the anticipated selection of a new single-board computer within the AFFS CU and a modification of its firmware. The AFFS CU’s current single-board computer, the BL1500 (019-0030 rev C), is no longer produced, preventing future manufacturing of the AFFS CU, in its present form. AAS 2008, in accordance with JAARS’ interests, intended to replace this single-board computer with an appropriate alternative. However, it was unable to do so, due to the reduced number of I/O pins provided in updated versions of the BL1500, making this line of microprocessors unable to drive the diplay unit of the AFFS, in its present form, and thus the BL1500 was retained, and the upgrade left for future work. AFFS firmware operated much the same as before, with modifications to its transmission protocol to accommodate CICS. Also within the AFFS Control Unit, the Pactor-II modem was removed as CICS is a digital command set that takes advantage of the Codan’s internal modem capabilities. For the same reason, this modem was also removed on the dispatch end so that AFFSWIN software could communicate via CICS commands over the Codan HF transceiver.

AAS 2008 was hopeful that future generations of this project will work to develop JAARS’ AFFS, or a similar system, into a hybrid solution that takes advantage of up-and-coming communications technologies, such as satellite. Other improvements that could be made in future generations might be the ability to pre-configure the system’s text messaging capabilities, giving the pilot the ability to set messages unique to the flight. AAS 2008 and MSI hoped that future AAS teams would accomplish these goals while continuing to build upon the work of previous AAS teams to offer a more enhanced and reliable service to the mission aviation community.

MSI strives to meet the safety needs of mission aviation departments across the globe, including past AAS clients MAF and United Indian Mission (UIM). While commercial aircraft are typically equipped with multiple safety systems including voice/data communications, equipment logging, and real time flight tracking, smaller mission aviation departments are often ill-equipped and struggle to afford even the most modest of systems. Mission aviation flights are also more often rugged, with short take-offs and landings common in most scenarios, and a concern for maximum space and weight efficiency in each flight. The need to create simplified, less costly, space-efficient communications and flight tracking systems becomes a necessity. The purpose of the multi-generational AAS project has been to assist MSI in their vision to provide a multi-faceted alternative to the ever-growing cost and demand of commercial flight tracking and communications systems. AAS 2008 aimed to extend this purpose through a cooperative partnership with JAARS, by enhancing their AFFS and benefiting from their extensive knowledge-base. AAS 2008 intended to tailor the modified version of AFFS to the needs of MAF to make it interoperable with the Codan NGT. Increased partnerships and coordination amongst aviation departments will greatly serve the individual pilot who may be depending on the work of this and future FTMS project teams.

The AAS 2007 senior project group, working in consultation with Mission Safety International (MSI) focused on a satellite link solution to the messaging needs of UIM International pilots in Mexico.

The 2006 AAS senior project group focused on the HF radio link and digital messaging used to keep track of missionary pilots in remote locations. The system allows a ground station to automatically track small aircraft by GPS coordinates, displaying status messages and locations of a missionary airplane on a computer map.

  • Exploring Collaborative Opportunities in Ethiopia:

The Timothy Project had requested assistance from a Christian engineering educator for a recently established school in Tigray, Ethiopia known as Mekelle Institute of Technology (MIT). While MIT has programs in electrical, electronics, computer and communications engineering and information technology, it graduated its first class of students in summer 2007. Due to the focus of the Collaboratory’s Communication Group, and Dr. Underwood's expertise directly related to MIT's core curriculum, he volunteered, at the request of MIT’s Dean, to deliver general guest lectures on Transmission Lines, Antennas and Propagation, with a special lecture on satellite technology for Internet connectivity in remote locations. This built upon his previous partnership with PACTEC, guest lecturing in Chiang Mai on sabbatical during 2005, and his use of the e-book Wireless Networking in the Developing World with Messiah students. The visit to MIT will facilitate future opportunities to collaborate with MIT faculty and students on projects of mutual interest.

CO: Exploring Collaborative Opportunities in Ethiopia


For documentation about a specific project, please visit the project's wiki page.

CO: Flight Tracking and Messaging Solutions (FTMS) Project Proposal Article

Group Orientation

Syllabus ENGR 201CO S14

Syllabus ENGR 201CO S13

Project I

Syllabus ENGR 288CO F13

Project II

Syllabus ENGR 388CO S14

Syllabus ENGR 388CO S13

Project III

Syllabus ENGR 488CO F13

Project IV

Syllabus ENGR 489CO S14

Syllabus ENGR 489CO S13

For more information about this template, please read Help:Group article and Help:Template.
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