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Graphical Analysis And Animation In An Introductory Electrodynamics Course

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.280.1 - 4.280.14



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Paper Authors

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Christopher Field

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Brian Jenkins

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Deborah M. Mechtel

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

Session 2520

Graphical Analysis and Animation in an Introductory Electrodynamics Course

Deborah M. Mechtel, Christopher T. Field, and Brian Jenkins

Department of Electrical Engineering United States Naval Academy 105 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD 21402 (email) (410) 293 - 6165 (tel) (410) 293 - 3493 (fax)


Students frequently experience difficulty visualizing complex multidimensional electrodynamics topics, especially those with time variation. The classic stationary illustrations of inherently dynamic concepts can be greatly enhanced via computer animation. Animation significantly improves student comprehension of time dependent functions, and provides a secondary benefit for students by improving computer programming skills.


Computer animation is being used in a junior level electrodynamics class at the United States Naval Academy (USNA), one of the more abstract courses in the undergraduate electrical engineering curriculum. Animation of computer generated graphics provides a powerful learning tool to help students visualize abstract concepts, which is especially useful in electrodynamics since key electromagnetic concepts involve time dependent multidimensional problems.1 As an additional benefit, modeling this type of problem helps students improve their computer skills. The extensive student use of computers and industry standard software as engineering tools is a USNA electrical engineering department goal.

MATLAB, a popular technical programming tool with inherent graphical analysis features, is used throughout the electrical engineering curriculum at the USNA to (1) develop student proficiency in programming, (2) enhance the students’ numerical modeling expertise, and (3) improve the students’ comprehension of core subject matter. For the introductory electrodynamics class, a key to achieving a more rapid and complete student grasp of the technical concepts is MATLAB’s "handle graphics" feature.2 The "handle graphics" feature can simulate the evolution of multidimensional graphs over time. As a result, students are able to look at a rapid series of snapshots of a time dependent function as it develops, similar to the changing frames of a movie film.

Field, C., & Jenkins, B., & Mechtel, D. M. (1999, June), Graphical Analysis And Animation In An Introductory Electrodynamics Course Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina. 10.18260/1-2--7699

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