Arizona Technology and Innovation: International Microwave Symposium

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Microwaves are used in a very wide range of technologies, including communications, radio astronomy and of course to help you heat up a burrito. Phoenix will be playing host May 17 through the 22 to the The IEEE MTT International Microwave Symposium, the premier annual international meeting for technologists involved in all aspects of microwave theory and practice. Steve Goodnick, the vice chair of the symposium, will tell us more.

TED SIMONS: Tonight's edition of Arizona's Technology and Innovation looks at an international microwave symposium set for next week in Downtown Phoenix. The conference is the premier annual meeting for technologists involved in all aspects of microwave theory and practice. Here with more is Steve Goodnick, vice chair of the symposium and Also with ASU. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

STEVE GOODNICK: Thank you Ted.

TED SIMONS: Let's get to some basics here. What are microwaves?

STEVE GOODNICK: Well, that's a good question. Most people are familiar with microwave ovens but they're really a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Just by analogy ocean waves are waves just like electromagnetic waves. They have a certain frequency, how often they strike the shore and they have a distance between them, which is the wavelength. When we talk about microwaves, we're talking about a certain frequency band of the electromagnetic spectrum.

TED SIMONS: And this is for communication? Give us some examples of what microwaves are used for.

STEVE GOODNICK: The most common and most impactful to people is in cellular telephones and cell phones. So the microwaves are a core technology for that and the frequencies that they operate at are in the microwave frequency and you mentioned radio astronomy, microwaves made a big impact in that in terms of, for example, the origins of the big bang and things like that. But probably most people are familiar with cell phones and that impacts everybody today and that's probably the main application.

TED SIMONS: And the microwave oven.

STEVE GOODNICK: And the oven.

TED SIMONS: Microwave theory and practice. What does that mean?

STEVE GOODNICK: Well, A large portion of the conference is devoted to basically the modeling of microwave systems, microwave circuits and, you know, the techniques that are used. It's very important for measurement. It's very special at these high frequencies, you can't use normal measurement technology and so there's special measurement technology that's been developed over the years to understand and characterize this.

TED SIMONS: And for the symposium, there will be workshops and seminars and these sorts of things?

STEVE GOODNICK: We have a full week planned. So we have actually three symposiums together so there's the R.F.I.C symposium which leads the week and then the international microwave symposium is in the middle, and then there's a measurement and technique workshop at the end. We have workshops throughout the week, we have panel sessions, and we have tutorials. So it's really going to be a full week.

TED SIMONS: And there are commercial exhibits as well displayed?

STEVE GOODNICK: Oh, yeah. This is one of the largest commercial exhibits, at least within the electronics community and so we have over 600 companies that are going to be represented in the exhibition. We have 900 booths sold and that's going to be a record for this conference.

TED SIMONS: As far as students, are there opportunities for students?

STEVE GOODNICK: Yes. That's very important for us in the future workforce for the microwave industry and so we've programmed several events for students. We have design competitions for students and importantly on Thursday, we're having a stem day, science technology engineering and math day, we're bringing students in from the local high schools, from middle schools and we're going to let them experience the symposium for a day and really have a special day planned for them.

TED SIMONS: So we've got that the R.F. microwave industry is out there. What are the challenges? It seems so foreign to a lot of people, but it's very important to a lot of folks and I'm sure advances are happening all the time. Challenges, what are you seeing?

STEVE GOODNICK: Well, the challenges are that technology keeps evolving and, you know, people want faster and faster data rates, for example, you know, when you're on your cell phone and you want to watch a video, you don't want to wait several minutes for the video to download. We're working on technologies, such as what's called 5g technology that's going to basically dramatically expand the date rates and bandwidths of cellular communication. And so it's a challenge to design for higher frequencies and faster data rates and training the workforce to do that is a challenge.

TED SIMONS: I would think that the industry is changing quite a bit in this I.T. world, correct?

STEVE GOODNICK: That's correct. So a lot of companies, you know, traditional microwaves was centered around a set of physical principles. Now, it's very interdisciplinary. Microwave is married with digital technology, with all those things that chip makers make, and it's becoming all integrated. So it's really quite interdisciplinary.

TED SIMONS: Give us the dates for this symposium and again, what folks can expect if they go down there and they're not quite sure what they're going down there for but they're curious. What can they see?

STEVE GOODNICK: Well, so the symposium, it starts on Sunday the 17th, and then the microwave symposium kicks off on Monday night with the plenary session. The exhibition is Tuesday through Thursday and people are welcome to come down. They need to come down and register and get a badge but if they come on Wednesday the exhibition itself is free. So they can attend at no cost and visit some of the 600 companies that have booths there, and then the symposium itself ends on Thursday and we have again workshops and testing and measurement on Friday.

TED SIMONS: And location for all this?

STEVE GOODNICK: All this is located in the Phoenix convention center. We've filled up quite a bit of that. We've filled up all the hotels around the area, and yeah, it's going to be at the center.

TED SIMONS: And we're going to see a lot of engineers walking around downtown, aren't we?

STEVE GOODNICK: Yes.

TED SIMONS: All right well good to have you here. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

STEVE GOODNICK: Thank you very much, Ted.

Steve Goodnick:Vice chair of IEEE MTT International Microwave Symposium

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