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Learning Dynamic Systems Through The Help Of Computer Programming

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Poster Session

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.834.1 - 15.834.8



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Paper Authors

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Tanja Magoc University of Texas at El Paso

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Eric Freudenthal University of Texas, El Paso

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Francois Modave Central Washington University

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

Learning Dynamic Systems through the Help of Computer Programming


Dynamic systems are not easily understood by students entering college due to complexity of underlying concepts, which are frequently stated but not understood in early mathematics and science courses. Moreover, students majoring in disciplines other than computer science, such as biology or finance, are usually resistant to taking computing courses and view them as irrelevant to their field of study. On the other hand, it is nowadays practically impossible to study, understand, and analyze dynamic systems without help of computers. Computation for Science and Engineering (CompSE) is an introductory computer programming course that will be offered in the Spring 2010 with the new curriculum that is anticipated to attract STEM students to computation fields. The CompSE introduces programming concepts through study of dynamic systems taken from various fields such as finance, molecular biology, and environmental science. Moreover, CompSE introduces students to using computer programming and simulation to analyze systems that are hard or almost impossible to understand and model using only analytical methods. rest in multi-disciplinary studies, which include computation and programming.


Dynamic systems, such as ballistics and resonance, are not easily understood by students entering college. Even harder to understand are unstable natural systems, such as market fluctuation and development of cancer. Nowadays, it is practically almost impossible to study, understand, and analyze dynamic systems without help of computers. Even though numerous computer simulations are widely available on web pages to visually present dynamics of some systems, the reasoning behind these simulations is not readily available and understandable to college students. Moreover, the students are limited to visualizing only samples that are provided on web pages rather than being able to experiment on their own in order to understand causes of certain behaviors.

On the other hand, if students posses basic computer programming skills, they would be able to create their own simulations, compare their solutions to the existing ones, and perform additional experiments. Moreover, in order to produce a computer program that correctly simulates a natural phenomenon of interest, students would have to thoroughly understand the dynamics of the system.

However, many college students, with the exception of those majoring in computer science, are resistant to taking computer programming classes since the curriculum of computer science classes principally focuses on the syntax of a particular programming language. Furthermore, programming projects are typically structured to provide practice of programming concepts rather than examining the application of programming to STEM studies. Computer Programming for Scientists and Engineers (CPSE) is a course offered at the University of Texas at El Paso intended to teach basic computer programming skills to undergraduate students majoring in STEM disciplines other than computer science. This course, which previously focused on the syntax and

Magoc, T., & Freudenthal, E., & Modave, F. (2010, June), Learning Dynamic Systems Through The Help Of Computer Programming Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16310

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