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Understanding And Teaching Electromagnetics In The 21 St Century

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.564.1 - 4.564.7

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Richard L. Coren

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C. John Carpenter

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

Session 2532

Understanding and Teaching Electromagnetics in the 21st Century

Richard L. Coren*†, C. John Carpenter** *Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Drexel University, Phila., PA **Electrical Engineering Department, University of Bristol, Bristol, U.K.


There is considerable pressure to change the undergraduate Electromagnetics course from the way it has been taught and understood for 100 years. This arises from the changing student body, new methods of use of E&M, and curricular pressure. Surprisingly, a modern response is supplied by James Clerk Maxwell, some of whose original concepts were neglected by those who interpreted his work. Not only is this reconsidered analysis pedagogically simpler and more germane to todays usage but it responds to theoretical problems where canonical analysis is weak.

A brief discussion is given of this material, which relegates what are now known as the "Maxwell equations" to a secondary role, as it is now being presented in a junior level electrical engineering course.


The engineering electromagnetics (EM) course is under attack because: 1 - students find it to be one of the most difficult courses they take. This has been exacerbated recently by the changing nature and interests of engineering students. Generally they are less prepared, mathematically, than previously, and not as experienced in structural visualization. 2 - few engineers actually use EM professionally. Modern engineering is directed more to systems and software analysis rather than to hardware and components. 3 - those who use EM employ only a small part of the subject’s complexity. Despite teaching a host of fields: D, E, B, H, P, M, ϕ, A, modern computer solution methods generally employ only the last two of these quantities, with the others being found only for post-processing convenience. 4 - there is real curricular pressure to make room for new courses and proposals to reduce the engineering credit requirements. These, combined with reasons 1 and 2, make the EM course a likely target.

A response to these issues has been proposed through an interpretation that was originally made to enrich the professional understanding of EM and to respond to several issues where

Coren, R. L., & Carpenter, C. J. (1999, June), Understanding And Teaching Electromagnetics In The 21 St Century Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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