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Mathematica in Electrical Engineering: Developing a Modern Learning Environment

Mariusz Jankowski
Organization: University of Southern Maine
Department: Electrical Engineering

1998 WorldWide Mathematica Conference
Conference location

Chicago, IL

A recent award from the National Science Foundation was used to establish a computer-integrated classroom to support instruction in selected undergraduate electrical engineering courses. The new classroom is being used to address three pedagogically fundamental problems: 1) insufficient mastery of engineering mathematics by many students, 2) student passivity within the traditional lecture format, and 3) insufficient use of computation and visualization in the learning process.

New electronic courseware is being developed, in the form of Mathematica notebooks, to facilitate and foster an active learning environment. Through increased use of computation and scientific visualization, we expect to see improvements in students' level of interest, increased classroom participation, and finally, improved learning outcomes.

To date, Mathematica has been integrated into four upper-level electrical engineering courses in the signal processing area, including junior-level Signals and Systems, and two senior-level courses: Digital Signal Processing and Digital Image Processing. A large number of supporting notebooks that accompany and extend the traditional textbooks have been developed. A few simple principles govern the organization of each notebook. A notebook typically deals with a single important course topic. It includes moderate levels of introductory and explanatory text to allow some degree of independent study. The notebooks have examples of typical calculations that demonstrate solutions to standard problems. Additionally, each notebook includes "discussion problems" that students answer during the lecture session. This activity promotes self-discovery and allows the student to actively participate during the lecture. Finally, a set of basic and extended computer-based homework problems/projects is attached to each notebook. The role of the latter is to extend the students' knowledge and interests beyond the necessarily limited confines of the lecture material. Examples of selected courseware modules will be presented, and the organization of a typical lecture will be discussed.

*Engineering > Electrical Engineering
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