June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Engineering Physics & Physics
15.235.1 - 15.235.7
Blessing or Curse, Teaching with CAD Software
Computer-aided design (CAD) software packages are indispensible tools for scientists and engineers, and thus they are often introduced in many science and engineering courses. Depending on how they are used in class, these software packages can be very helpful or rather harmful to students’ learning. With the understanding of theories, people can have deep insight and wide perspective of technical problems. On the other hand, a computer can simulate a well specified problem and give out the detailed solution. Therefore, human and the computer can complement each other and solve many problems effectively. CAD software packages are used in several courses in our department, including Electromagnetics and Electronic Circuits. We find that they can get students more interested in the subject, as well as help students to visualize physics concepts and also better understand the theories.
CAD software packages are widely used in many science and engineering courses, such as Electromagnetics and Electronic Circuits. Many physical laws are expressed in the form of partial differential equations, such as Maxwell’s equations. Unfortunately, there is no closed- form solution for most practical problems. With the help of CAD software, students can overcome this mathematical barrier. In addition, the capability in solving these equations can help students visualize the invisible physical variables, such as the distribution of electric and magnetic fields1. Furthermore, students can investigate practical devices by simulation, which can increase their interest in learning the abstract theory2, 3.
In many engineering applications, there are many variables entangled together, such as in electronic circuits, and it also defies human’s capability to solve them. In addition, many active electronic devices, such as transistors, have nonlinear behaviors, which further complicate the analytical approach. However, such problems can be efficiently simulated with the simulators in CAD software packages. Therefore, many engineering designs rely heavily on computer simulation, so it is imperative to teach students how to use these indispensible CAD tools4,5.
Although CAD software provides huge benefits in the fields of science and engineering, it could also cause some negative effects for students if used without precaution. Because many software packages are so powerful, some students believe that the traditional process of learning fundamental concepts and theories can be bypassed and replaced. However, in industry engineers often face a vast design space and endless possibilities, therefore, the first step in choosing the design scheme relies on human insight and intuition. When the design space is narrowed down to a small range, CAD software can be used to further optimize the design.
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