Asee peer logo

Teaching Computer Programming Skills To First Year Engineering Students Using Fun Animation In Matlab

Download Paper |


2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Programming for Engineering Students

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1203.1 - 11.1203.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Ramzi Bualuan University of Notre Dame

visit author page

Ramzi Bualuan is the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. He taught all the Notre Dame freshman engineering courses between 1994 and 2000, and he designed and teaches the programming module used in the current freshman engineering course sequence.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Teaching Computer Programming Skills to First-Year Engineering Students Using Fun Animation in MATLAB

Abstract - This paper describes an approach to teach computer programming concepts to first-year engineering students. The environment of choice is Matlab, and the teaching method consists of requiring the students to create a project in which they will code a computer game with the use of functions that are provided to them. The gaming aspect of the project generates a high level of fun which enhances the learning process. The project is one of the four modules that Engineering Freshmen work on while taking their two Introduction to Engineering Systems courses. It spans half a semester, and, unlike the other three group-based projects, is individually-based.

Matlab provides a wide range of animation tools and functions that allow a user to create very nice animation and games. Mastering those tools however is not a task for the novice, and would be too overwhelming for an introduction to computer programming module. The approach presented here raises the level of abstraction for the student so that he/she will not have to deal with the lower-level details of Matlab’s animation tools, but instead focus on the problem itself, and thereby develop the proper programming skills and learn important concepts such as selection, iteration, arrays, etc.


Teaching programming skills to Freshmen engineers has been a pedagogical challenge for many colleges and universities, especially in a large classroom setting. Issues such as the choice of the language and the selection of the topics to cover have been influenced by the engineering departments and by the students themselves. Some students come in with no prior programming background, others are self-described “hacks”, and many are in between. Finding a pace that fits a skill-diverse group has its problems. Furthermore, even though students do not enter their engineering departments at our institution until their Sophomore year, by the start of the Spring semester of their Freshman year most of them already have an idea of what engineering department they will choose. Finding a programming project that fits all fields of engineering is therefore quite a task. Moreover, each department in the school of engineering wants to have its say on how Freshmen engineers should develop their programming skills. These students will, after all, soon be entering their departments.

This paper presents the approach that has been used the past three years at the University of Notre Dame, in the programming module of the Introduction to Engineering Systems course sequence. The sequence consists of two courses that all Freshmen engineers must take. Those two courses consist of four modules, two per semester, each of which is project-based. In the Spring of 2004, one of the modules became a programming module, which is the focus of this paper. The course sequence mentioned above has been presented in previous conferences1,2. It should be noted however that the design and the pedagogical philosophy behind the development of the programming module is totally independent from and unrelated to the development of the courses themselves.

Bualuan, R. (2006, June), Teaching Computer Programming Skills To First Year Engineering Students Using Fun Animation In Matlab Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1260

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015