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Making the Move from C to Python With Mechanical Engineering Students

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Computers in Education Division Technical Session 1: Topics Related to Engineering - Part 2

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Burford J. Furman San Jose State University

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Burford "Buff" Furman has been on the faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at San José State University since 1994. Prior to coming to SJSU, he worked at IBM in the Silicon Valley (San José, California) in the development of disk drive actuators and spindle motors. He has also worked as a consultant in the optomechanical and laboratory automation industries. His areas of teaching and research are primarily focused in mechatronics and solar-powered automated transportation.

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Salman Ahsan San Jose State University

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Currently Salman Ahsan is an educator and mentor to young people he teaches part-time at San Jose State and Seattle University. He is also working on a services company that specializes in the artificial intelligence and machine learning space. In the past he worked in the semiconductor industry, in companies like Linear Technology (now Analog Devices Inc) and Maxim Integrated. Salman studied at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S.E), Princeton University (Ph.D) and University of California at Berkeley (M.B.A).

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Eric Wertz self/EduShields

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Eric Wertz is a software engineer most recently involved in embedded systems and education. He has been a volunteer educator developing both hardware and software course materials for the Mechatronics program at San Jose State University (SJSU) for more than a decade. He has been involved in operating systems and driver development, mobile computing device development, DevOps and security, and authentication and encryption toolkits. He holds a BS in EE/CS from the University of California at Berkeley.

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Work is underway in the Mechanical Engineering Department at San José State University to transition the first course in computer programming (ME 30 Computer Applications) and a follow-on course, ME 106 Fundamentals of Mechatronics, from C to Python. Both courses make extensive use of a microcontroller to teach the fundamentals in both subjects, and heretofore have used the C language and the Arduino platform, but now both courses have moved to Python and to the Adafruit Feather M4 Express board, which can run Python natively on its associated microcontroller. Prior to the transition to Python, ME 30 had a relatively high failure rate between about 10 - 35%. Since transitioning to Python, the failure rate dropped dramatically to about 3% in the fall of 2019. The paper will outline the previous structure of the courses, explain the motivation for transitioning from C to Python, and discuss the pros and cons of the transition observed to date.

Furman, B. J., & Ahsan, S., & Wertz, E. (2020, June), Making the Move from C to Python With Mechanical Engineering Students Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34946

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