June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.1216.1 - 11.1216.8
Teaching Numerical Methods in Engineering with MATHCAD
Of all the facets of an engineering education, it is perhaps numerical methods – a hybrid of science and art – that require the most attention. Increasingly, numerical methods are becoming more important in both design and research work. Employer surveys demand that students exhibit a high proficiency in this discipline, and the inclusion of a well developed course sequence in numerical methods is critical to designing an engineering program’s Outcomes and Objectives in the ABET accreditation framework. Mastery of numerical and computer methods is a precursor to gaining that experience base which defines engineering success in both industry and graduate school.
The Marine Systems Engineering program at the Maine Maritime Academy has adopted MATHCAD as a strategic tool in augmenting its numerical methods curriculum. This decision was influenced by several key criteria. First, the increasingly prominent role of technical communications in the engineering profession mandates that calculations be integrated with well documented and formatted text. This addresses ethical, analytical and legal concerns. As the intellectual property portfolio now defines – to a great extent – the value of many technology companies, it behooves the engineer to simultaneously design and document one’s work. Moreover, this documentation approach is further enhanced by MATHCAD’s visual interface of mathematical formulae in their standard (textbook) form. As other authors1 have dutifully noted, programming languages and other software packages unfortunately still require a substantial translation or encryption – even for the most basic of mathematical expressions. Lastly, MATHCAD was also selected for its nimble facility in displaying and converting all types of engineering units and dimensions. From a pedagogical standpoint, the value of dimensional analysis cannot be underestimated as students begin to develop a keen sense of what to expect in terms of the final answer with its corresponding units.
Higher expectations have now been placed on the designer and researcher. The advent of relatively inexpensive computing power in the form of MATHCAD, MATLAB, MAPLE, and MATHEMATICA had done much to fuel the skyrocketing demand for sophisticated engineering analysis. In fact, the emergence of the aforementioned software applications has spawned a debate in academia as to the actual relevance of structured programming courses in the engineering curriculum.2 This too was carefully considered when designing the numerical methods curriculum at the Maine Maritime Academy. Thus, on the topic of programming, MATHCAD was chosen for its versatility. Despite its many pre-programmed features, MATHCAD also has a powerful programming module, which is available for those users who want to develop a more customized and structured solution.
Wlodkowski, P. (2006, June), Teaching Numerical Methods In Engineering With Mathcad Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--897
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