June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.1.1 - 12.1.16
"KANGAROO" THINKING: MATHEMATICS, MODELING, AND ENGINEERING IN INTRODUCTORY COMPUTER PROGRAMMING FOR ENGINEERS Abstract Engineering education is concerned with how to transition freshman to successful students whom ultimately become successful engineers in the professional world. With limitations on curricula hours and compulsory courses, many universities are revamping their introductory freshman courses with an eye to give students an impression of what it means to be an engineer. By impressing on students the potential of the engineering field, it is hoped that students will be more motivated to stay in engineering majors. At the same time incorporating math and physics into introductory coursework will help prepare for students for the rigors of advanced computational strategies necessary for successful engineering applications. The Introduction to Computer Programming for Engineers has been redesigned incorporating a series of assignments which provide the opportunity to teach the aspects of structured programming languages (Visual Basic for Applications, VBA, is the language of instruction) while also allowing the integration of many features of engineering into the course. The approach has proven invaluable both in attracting and maintaining student interest in the course materials while simultaneously improving student understanding and perspectives on mathematics, engineering and modeling. Most important are the implications of how redesigning curriculum can have an impact on raising students’ awareness of what it means to be an engineer.
Introduction & Background Freshmen majoring in engineering at the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology at Oklahoma State University are required to take an introductory course in computer programming where they are taught the basics of a structured programming language. The computer language in the course is Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), an application-based language provided by Microsoft as a programming interface, interacting with Microsoft Office programs including Microsoft Excel. The link to Excel becomes an integral part of the course, allowing graphing and object animation as the students learn a programming language syntax and programming structures. Other benefits of VBA include the broad availability of the software to the student, as Microsoft Office Suite is the only required program, the relative ease of moving data to and from Excel worksheets allows students to learn basic programming structures quickly, and a real-time compiler allows faster program development and debugging. VBA also provides the flexibility of building programs that interact with other Windows applications. The VBA language is an introduction to the more formal higher-level Visual Basic and Visual Basic .NET (VB, VB.NET) languages should a student further pursue or need to develop programs that are more complex, stand-alone, or independent. The instructional methods for this class, learning objectives, and the link to Microsoft Excel have enabled the development of a series of assignments taking advantage of the numerous additional possibilities provided by the VBA environment. Three assignments through the course center on
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