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Teaching Programming Skills With Matlab

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.954.1 - 6.954.9



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Paper Authors

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Rakesh Pangasa

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David Scott

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Marc Herniter

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

Session 1520

Teaching Programming Skills with MATLAB

Marc E. Herniter, David R. Scott Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona Rakesh Pangasa Arizona Western College, Yuma, Arizona


A major challenge in contemporary engineering education is how to include and reinforce computer programming thinking skills throughout the curriculum without trivializing the problems to be solved. With all of the application specific computer programs available to solve engineering problems, engineering schools do a disservice to students if they solve trivial problems by writing programs in a high level language rather then using application specific programs. As an example, engineers would not write a program in C to solve a four transistor circuit when they could have solved the problem in a few minutes with SPICE. With the proliferation of application specific programs, instructors can assign non-trivial problems that can be easily solved with application specific programs but are difficult to solve in a reasonable amount of time with a high level programming language. The result is that most engineering curricula teach a high level programming class in the freshmen year and most students are seldom required to use the language again. The Electrical Engineering department at NAU has attempted to solve this problem by teaching programming in MATLAB and then requiring the use of MATLAB throughout the curriculum. MATLAB has enough programming constructs to teach an introductory programming course along with built-in functions to solve non-trivial problems in most high-level courses. This facilitates not only the learning of valuable programming thinking skills but also their reinforcement in the solution of nontrivial application problems throughout the curriculum.

I. Introduction

A computer programming course is required in most engineering curriculums. One reason for this requirement is to teach problem solving skills and the process of instructing someone else (in this case a computer) to solve a problem. Typically, these courses are taught in the freshman or sophomore year and use either Fortran, C, C++ or JAVA as their programming language. Because these programming languages are difficult to use when solving problems in other engineering, mathematics, and science courses, the student often does not reinforce those skills and loses a potentially valuable educational experience. MATLAB, on the other hand, is a programming language that not only retains the basic programming constructs but also features a host of advanced application-specific functions, the ability to create graphical user interfaces, an optional command line interaction, debugging tools, and symbolic mathematics. All these features allow students the opportunity to be more productive and go beyond the knowledge gained in the introductory programming course. By employing a full-featured higher-level programming language such as MATLAB, students have the opportunity to reinforce those skills

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Pangasa, R., & Scott, D., & Herniter, M. (2001, June), Teaching Programming Skills With Matlab Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9874

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