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Improving Student Performance In Programming Courses

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Issues in Computer Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.732.1 - 10.732.10



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Paper Authors

author page

Gabe Garcia

author page

Ian Leslie

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

Improving Student Performance in Programming Courses Through Unlimited Access to Computer and Software Resources I. H. Leslie and G. Garcia New Mexico State University


Computer programming is an integral part of the curriculum in Mechanical Engineering Department at New Mexico State University. Students in Mechanical Engineering are required to take two courses, a programming fundamentals course and a numerical methods course. The programming fundamentals course utilizes MATHCAD and MATLAB. The follow-on course covers basic numerical methods with MATLAB as the sole programming tool. Typically, students only have access to these programs via department computer labs. As a result of this, the students’ time is limited to certain hours of the day and they compete with other students for the available computers. The authors felt that students’ performance in the programming courses could be improved if the tools they needed were available all the time.

A mobility grant from Hewlett-Packard consisting of 40 laptop computers along with the recent building wide wireless networking in the department has provided an opportunity to test the merits of unlimited access to computers and software needed by students enrolled in the department programming courses. Although many students have computers of their own, only a very few have either MATHCAD or MATLAB installed. A random selection of students from each course received laptops with MATHCAD and MATLAB installed. The initial distribution of laptops occurred in the Spring 2004 semester, and a second distribution took place during the Fall 2004 semester. A further distribution is planned for the Spring 2005 semester.

Existing Computer Resources

Computing resources at New Mexico State University are made available to students through 11 campus computing labs. The campus currently has 11 general purpose computing labs. Through these labs, a total of 220 windows based personal computers and 29 Mac based machines are available for student use. The majority of the campus computing labs are open 6 days a week from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. The only exception is the main computing lab, which is available to students 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The main computing lab contains 20 windows based machines and 20 Mac based machines.

The only computing software package that the campus computing labs support that is also used in ME 260 is MATHCAD. MATLAB is currently not available to students in any of the campus computing labs. In addition, the current version of MATHCAD that is available on the campus computing labs is the 2001 version. The Department of Mechanical Engineering

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Garcia, G., & Leslie, I. (2005, June), Improving Student Performance In Programming Courses Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14865

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