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The Impact Of Math Cad In An Energy Systems Design Course

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.562.1 - 3.562.11

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Paper Authors

author page

Robert P. Taylor

author page

B.K. Hodge

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

Session 2666

The Impact of MathCad in an Energy Systems Design Course

B. K. Hodge, Robert P. Taylor Mississippi State University


Experiences using MathCad instead of a higher-level programming language in a required energy systems design course are related. MathCad was used for all computational requirements in the course; MathCad worksheets for a variety of energy systems design and analysis procedures were provided to the students. Students readily adapted to the change from programming languages to MathCad. Many MathCad solution approaches were found to differ significantly from conventional techniques and to be more congruent with problem formulations. The MathCad solution approach to the course resulted in more emphasis on engineering and less on programming and was judged a success.


Since the 1950s, digital computers have become an increasingly important part of engineering education and the engineering workplace. Both engineering educators and engineering practitioners have struggled to evolve effective ways to fully utilize the increasing power and sophistication of computers in engineering analysis and design. For a number of years, engineers were heavily involved in developing applications-oriented programs via extensive coding; indeed, computer programming skills were viewed as a necessary adjunct to a contemporary engineering education. However, by the mid-1980s the ever-increasing availability, the user- friendliness, and the utility of engineering applications software portended a shift in the engineering workplace to less programming and more reliance on commercial software elements. In the 1990s that trend has continued, and, paraphrasing Baker (1) at the University of Tennessee, the days of amateur programming in the engineering workplace are over. Hodge and Taylor (2) identified the end of amateur programming as an important factor for change in mechanical engineering education.

Thus, coding and programming in the engineering workplace have diminished in importance in many engineering disciplines, including mechanical engineering. To be sure, in many research and development activities, programming skills by engineers continue and will continue to be mandatory, but such activity is far from amateur and is accomplished by engineering specialists with a high degree of expertise in the subject. The ability to use commercial software packages and systems in a variety of everyday activities is more important for most mechanical engineers than the ability to code and debug relatively short, specialized programs in a higher-level language. Mechanical engineering undergraduates need to develop skills in using commercial software packages and systems in a timely and correct fashion. Many mechanical engineering

Taylor, R. P., & Hodge, B. (1998, June), The Impact Of Math Cad In An Energy Systems Design Course Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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