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An Effective Approach For Teaching Computer Programming To Freshman Engineering Students

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.160.1 - 6.160.13



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Paper Authors

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Mohammad Naraghi

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Bahman Litkouhi

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2520

An Effective Approach for Teaching Computer Programming to Freshman Engineering Students Mohammad H.N. Naraghi and Bahman Litkouhi Department of Mechanical Engineering

Manhattan College Riverdale, NY 10471

I. Introduction

Computer programming is an essential and integral part of any engineering program. Engineering students in their junior and senior years face the task of solving problems using numerical approaches. Good programming skills will enable them to tackle those problems easily. Furthermore, a good knowledge of computer programming makes an engineering graduate more attractive to research oriented engineering employers as well as graduate engineering programs. In order to enable students to use their programming skills during the four years of engineering education, the best time for teaching programming is freshman year.

In the past, Fortran was the engineering and scientific programming language. During the1960’s, 70’s and, to some extend, the1980’s, Fortran was the only language with scientific functions. With the emergence of object oriented programming languages (C++, Java and Visual Basic) more attractive alternatives to Fortran became available. All of the new object-oriented programming languages have a comprehensive scientific function library. The question that every engineering program has to answer is “which one of these languages is appropriate for a freshman engineering programming course?” In order to use the object-oriented capabilities of Java and C++ and develop an interesting project, students have to go through a long period of instructions, which often cannot be done in one semester. In fact, we may end up losing students. Retention of engineering freshman is a critical issue in most engineering programs.

Visual Basic (VB) is an attractive alternative to C++ or Java. VB, with its Control Objects, makes computer programming a very interesting subject. In fact, it helps the students like programming. With a few weeks of instruction, students can develop sophisticated programs with a GUI (Graphic User Interface). Additionally, migrating to other languages becomes easy. We, at Manhattan College, teach Visual Basic programming in one of our introductory freshman engineering courses (Computer Programming for Engineers) for eight weeks. The remaining part of this course is devoted to teaching Spreadsheets and Mathcad. One interesting feature of this course that makes it attractive for our freshmen is its semester long group projects. These projects

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Naraghi, M., & Litkouhi, B. (2001, June), An Effective Approach For Teaching Computer Programming To Freshman Engineering Students Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9162

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