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Using Matlab To Teach The Introductory Computer Programming Course For Engineers

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Electrical & Computer Engineering Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1381.1 - 9.1381.5



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Paper Authors

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Asad Azemi

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

session 1033

Using Matlab to Teach the Introductory Computer-Programming Course for Engineers Asad Azemi Laura Pauley Department of Engineering Department of Mechanical and Pennsylvania State University Nuclear Engineering Delaware County Campus Pennsylvania State University Media, PA 19063 University Park, PA 16802 E-mail: E-mail:


The introductory computer-programming course for engineers is usually taught using the C++ programming language. This work describes our current effort to introduce a pilot project, which can be used in an evaluation process by those departments that would like to substitute Matlab for C++. Those who would like to continue the current practice, but are looking for more challenging problems/projects involving Matlab can also use the project outcome. The project, at this time, is not calling for elimination of C++, but merely a reversal of our on-going practice at Penn State; namely, twelve weeks of Matlab and two weeks of C++. A discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of conducting a computer-programming course in this format are included.

I. Introduction

Computer programming has been part of the engineering curriculum since the dawn of the computer age. The course is typically taught during the freshman or first semester of the sophomore year to ensure that students have sufficient programming background for solving problems in engineering courses. Although the assignments usually require some mathematical and/or basic physics/engineering background, the course is focused around programming concepts. Most universities use a “teach-a-language” approach in teaching this course, which means students work with a general-purpose programming language (e.g. C++, Java, or FORTRAN) that is sufficiently flexible to build anything that needs to be built. This approach provides training in programming, but is so time consuming that there is little opportunity left to learn about computation.

II. Current practice

The introductory computer-programming course for engineers, which was once dominated by FORTRAN for several decades, was gradually changed to C and later to C++ during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Currently most universities require only one computer-programming Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Azemi, A. (2004, June), Using Matlab To Teach The Introductory Computer Programming Course For Engineers Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12728

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