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Learn MATLAB piggybacked onto C-programming

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Software Applications in ET Programs

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.849.1 - 23.849.10



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Paper Authors


MADDUMAGE KARUNARATNE University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown

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Dr. Maddumage Karunaratne is an Associate Professor and the Head of the Electrical Engineering Technology department at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, PA. The department offers undergraduate degrees in Electrical Engineering Technology and Computer Engineering Technology. Dr. Karunaratne earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Moratuwa (Sri Lanka), a Master of Science from the University of Mississippi (Oxford), and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona (Tucson).

Before joining academia, he gained fourteen years of extensive industry experience working in the semiconductor industry performing software development, application engineering, design, testing and verification of digital integrated circuits. He has taught electrical and general engineering technology classes at Pitt-Johnstown since 2004.

His research and teaching interests include Semiconductor circuit Testing and Verification, Low Power Design Analysis, Digital and Embedded Systems, and Electronic Design Automation. He is an author of over 23 publications and a US patent holder.

He can be reached at
225 Engineering and Science Building
University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Johnstown, PA 15904

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Learn MATLAB piggybacked onto C-programmingAbstract:It is apparent that the electronic industry is making capable and inexpensive consumer devicesas evident from smart phones and tablets that are coming out to the market at an acceleratedphase. For capable consumer those devices even offer customization to a level that was neverseen in consumer electronics. However, such unique customizations require development ofcomputer programs recently come to known as Apps. When electrical and/or computerengineers are trained, it is becoming more imperative that nearly all acquire solid programmingskills to effectively function as electrical and/or computer engineers in their future careers.At the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus, electrical engineering technology (EET) andcomputer engineering technology (CET) majors always take one semester course on computerprogramming so that they can be effective in using embedded controllers and otherprogrammable devices such as PLCs, FPGA/CPLDs, etc., later in their curricula or in theindustry after graduation. It is a C-language based programming course with severalprogramming projects appropriate for the second year engineering students. However, several oftheir follow on courses require them to use MATLAB as a problem solving tool in advancedcircuit theory and control theory courses. Due to lack of time in this C-course, there has been noattempt made to teach or to introduce MATLAB at all – not even to complete a singleassignment with MATLAB in that course. However, students are required to learn, on theirown, its basic usage, functionality, constructs and then learn different features such as controland signal processing toolboxes in upper level classes. Instructors in the upper level classes canmake small efforts for students to learn MATLAB, but students are having a difficult timelearning it while devoting time for actual subject matter which are heavy in mathematics andabstract concepts.This paper discusses the experiences in introducing MATLAB as a programming tool tosophomore level students who are learning programming in C language as their main objective.As an instructor in the upper level follow on courses, the author has seen the difficulties studentgo through learning a new tool on the side with all the other courses they are taking. The authortherefore, is introducing MATLAB in the C -programming course to students to reduce theirfuture burdens of learning it, while benefitting them to reinforce the concepts in programmingsuch as loops, indexing, conditionals, inputs, storage management, data and program structures,etc.The paper will also present results from student surveys taken at various points in time, such asbefore introducing MATLAB, during the semester, and at the end of the course, to gauge thestudent experience on learning an additional programming tool at the basic level. The authorintend to follow through the surveying based data collection in to the future semesters of thesame student group when they use MATLAB for advanced courses in their majors. Perhaps,those findings would be sufficiently interesting to publish in a future ASEE conference as well.

KARUNARATNE, M. (2013, June), Learn MATLAB piggybacked onto C-programming Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19863

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