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Introduction to Mathematica--for engineering students

Phillip Kent
Organization: Imperial College
Department: The METRIC Project, Department of Mathematics
Philip Ramsden
Organization: Imperial College
Department: Mathematics
Education level


We have been invited to teach Mathematica in several engineering departments. For us, it made sense to have core material that could be (re)used everywhere, and special material designed for each department.

The role of these special topics is to "form connections" in several senses. First, as motivation for the relevance of Mathematica to doing engineering. Second, we need to draw on the expertise of the engineering faculty in designing these activities, giving them an involvement in the course which otherwise might not exist (since we are seen as outside Mathematica experts brought in to teach it).

The course is delivered in two versions, for first year Civil and Chemical Engineering students. Course length is 6 hours and 10 hours, respectively.

The course consists of "core" material on Mathematica, combined with specific engineering topics that differ in each department - for Civil, beams and vibrations, for Chemical, theory of gases and fluid flow. There are also some specific mathematical topics.

The overall purpose of these courses is to show students that mathematical software like Mathematica is relevant to their studies. Eventually, we hope to strengthen this message by having Mathematica appear in lectures and assignments in other first-year courses.

These courses have been described in a series of articles, all available online at http://metric.ma.ic.ac.uk/articles

Civil Engineering:
  • Mathematica graphics and animations - static and quasi-static beam deflection problems
  • Numerical solution of differential equations - damped and forced vibrations of a loaded beam
Chemical Engineering:
  • Mathematica graphics and animations - the Van der Waals gas equation, fluid flow around obstacles
  • Mathematica symbolics - finding stationary points on curves and surfaces
  • Mathematica numerics - calculating friction factors for flow in pipes, computing particle paths in fluids
  • Simple programming in Mathematica

*Engineering > Mechanical and Structural Engineering
*Science > Physics > Fluid Mechanics