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Introduction to MATLAB Programming in Fundamentals of Engineering Course

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

First-year Programs: Computation in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Djedjiga Belfadel Fairfield University

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Djedjiga Belfadel is an Associate Professor in the Electrical and Biomedical Engineering department at Fairfield University. She obtained her Ph.D. degree from the University of Connecticut in 2015, in electrical engineering. Her interests include embedded systems, target tracking, data association, sensor fusion, machine vision, engineering service, and education.

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Michael Zabinski Fairfield University

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Professor, Mechanical Engineering,Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT

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Isaac Macwan Fairfield University Orcid 16x16

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Working in the field of Bioelectronics on molecular dynamics studies at the interface of biological macromolecules and nanoparticles and bacterial assisted nanofabrication strategies utilizing carbon based nanomaterials.

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This Evidence-based Practice Paper outlines the benefits of introducing MATLAB to incoming freshmen. MATLAB includes the requisite programming constructs, has an easy to understand Graphical User Interface (GUI), and requires no prior programming experience. It is therefore an ideal programming language to introduce in a first-year Fundamentals of Engineering course. Students majoring in electrical, biomedical, and mechanical engineering, and students who have yet to declare a major take this required course. The MATLAB portion of the course consists of three 75 minute sessions and three major assignments. The course provides core engineering knowledge and is taught in an interactive format. Other topics include professional skills such as Excel, Arduino, technical writing, oral presentation, professional engineering practices, ethics in engineering, and career opportunities. An engineering approach to problem solving is taught with an emphasis on teamwork, oral and written communication, creativity, ingenuity, coding, and computer-aided design tools. The instructional approach taken in this three credit course is one in which students are active participants in the learning process. Students typically do not have an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of MATLAB until later in the curriculum, yet coding skills are very useful early on. This paper provides information on how coding is integrated into an introductory level engineering course. This process enhances the curriculum without adding course credits to the curriculum. Many engineering schools seek to improve their curriculum, while at the same time attempt not to increase the required number of credit hours. It is therefore beneficial to enrich the curriculum by teaching MATLAB programming in conjunction with different types of engineering problems in a relatively short time. Incoming first-year students lack math and engineering problem solving skills. This presents a challenge in teaching MATLAB programming. It is therefore important that the programming projects consist of problems that the students can relate to and identify with. Furthermore, the required math and engineering principles need to be presented in an elementary and clear way. This requires starting out with simple problems and then increasing their complexity. In addition to three 75 minutes lectures and three homework assignments, students can earn extra credit for completing MATLAB’s online teaching platform – Onramp. Onramp is a free, self-paced, hands-on MATLAB training course that takes approximately two hours to complete and includes eleven main topics and a final project in which students analyze the light recorded from a star. In the process students learn an important lesson about the transition from conception to implementation.

MATLAB programming was first introduced two year ago in the Fundamentals of Engineering course. We report on this 2-year exercise and include student feedback from the second year.

Belfadel, D., & Zabinski, M., & Macwan, I. (2021, July), Introduction to MATLAB Programming in Fundamentals of Engineering Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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