Top Mathematica features for engineering students?

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Top Mathematica features for engineering students?

Postby Kathy_Bautista » Thu Jan 28, 2010 9:47 pm

Cliff Hastings recently forwarded me the following email from a sophmore engineering student who had just emailed him after watching the "Hands-on Start to Mathematica" screencast.

I just participated and watched your screen cast on getting started on Mathematica - and may I say that you are a wonderful instructor! I enjoyed learning the basics of this interactive tool - I have worked with Matlab most recently, and already prefer Mathematica's beauty and simplicity.


What Mathematica features and functions do your engineering students find most useful?

-Kathy
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Re: Top Mathematica features for engineering students?

Postby Michael_Fanelli » Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:28 pm

I realize your post is somewhat old but I do have a slightly off-topic question.

At our college, we have launched an engineering program now in its third semester. The number of students enrolled has been growing. The math package being taught is Matlab. I realize that Matlab is an excellent engineering tool. However, I managed to convince the department head to approve a site license for Mathematica. I intend to try and introduce it to my physics students in the Fall semester after I have learned it better myself!

After all that, the engineering department has asked me whether Mathematica would be a good tool to teach engineers in addition to Matlab. Not being an engineer, I really couldn't answer that. So, is there a document or web site somewhere that compares the two specifically for engineering? Physics and math are already obvious.

Thanks.

Mike Fanelli
Cecil College
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A practice for engineering students

Postby Jose_Luis_Gomez » Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:56 pm

This is an example of a Mathematica practice I use with engineering students. I give it to them in PDF to force them to type the commands (no copy-paste) to reproduce the examples and solve the exercises:

http://homepage.cem.itesm.mx/lgomez/data/m3p01.pdf

hope you find it useful

Jose
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Cool Demonstrations for Engineers

Postby Jose_Luis_Gomez » Fri Feb 26, 2010 4:36 pm

The Wolfram Demonstrations site has many cool applications of Mathematica to Engineering. Se for example:

http://demonstrations.wolfram.com/searc ... c+circuits

http://demonstrations.wolfram.com/searc ... l+machines

Hope that helps

Jose
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Re: Top Mathematica features for engineering students?

Postby Kathy_Bautista » Thu Mar 11, 2010 1:32 am

Michael_Fanelli wrote:I realize your post is somewhat old but I do have a slightly off-topic question.

At our college, we have launched an engineering program now in its third semester. The number of students enrolled has been growing. The math package being taught is Matlab. I realize that Matlab is an excellent engineering tool. However, I managed to convince the department head to approve a site license for Mathematica. I intend to try and introduce it to my physics students in the Fall semester after I have learned it better myself!

After all that, the engineering department has asked me whether Mathematica would be a good tool to teach engineers in addition to Matlab. Not being an engineer, I really couldn't answer that. So, is there a document or web site somewhere that compares the two specifically for engineering? Physics and math are already obvious.

Thanks.

Mike Fanelli
Cecil College


Hi Mike,

Below are a few links that you may find useful.

Mathematica Comparative Analysis: Numerical Matrix Systems
http://www.wolfram.com/products/mathema ... stems.html

Mathematica Solutions
http://www.wolfram.com/solutions/
On this page are several links that describe how Mathematica is ideal for different engineering applications. On each of these field-specific pages, you can click on the "WHY CHOOSE MATHEMATICA?" tab to see information about why it makes sense to choose Mathematica over Matlab and other similar systems.

Always the Right Time for Mathematica
http://blog.wolfram.com/2007/07/09/alwa ... thematica/
This blog post compares Mathematica code to Matlab code

If I can provide any additional information, please let me know.

-Kathy
Katherine Bautista
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Re: Top Mathematica features for engineering students?

Postby lwalker701 » Mon Mar 15, 2010 4:51 pm

The following is a series on comparing Mathematica and Matlab in an engineering setting.
Norman Chonacky, "Maple, Mathematica, and Matlab", IEEE Computing in Science & Engineering.

A rule of thumb I use when choosing whether to recommend Matlab or Mathematica is this:
-If some mathematical expression already exists for a problem then I would recommend Matlab;
-If a mathematical expression needs to be developed for some problem then I would recommend Mathematica.

Personally, I feel that the Manipulate function is one of the best feature for engineering students. This addresses engineering problems where there are many possible solutions and the student wish to select the best by actuating some slider or knob.

I have taught both Mathematica and Matlab to engineering students. Matlab is necessary because most engineering companies and institutions require it. However, the students seem to enjoy using Mathematica the most. One classic case is assembling a molecule using the standard commands (no packages nor toolboxes). With Mathematica, the students had a far easier time. So with Matlab--as a minimum--I give students a working knowledge of specifying matrices and using Matlab programs and toolboxes.

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Re: Top Mathematica features for engineering students?

Postby Michael_Fanelli » Tue Mar 30, 2010 6:43 pm

Thanks for all the really great sites.

We have looked at Mathematica but have decided not to use it at this time. The major disadvantage is that the notebooks are not reusable. They calculate fine until they are saved. At that point, everything gets hard-coded into pure text. That works if notebooks have to be preserved in their original state but lousy if you need or want to make changes.

So, in the Fall I'll be teaching the Matlab course. Time to load it onto my MBP. Once again, thanks for all the help!

mike
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Re: Top Mathematica features for engineering students?

Postby Kelvin_Mischo » Tue Mar 30, 2010 9:18 pm

Hi Mike,

Sorry to comment late, but I'd like to talk a bit more about this. Regarding the format of documents, I actually hear the opposite from engineering faculty as a reason to use Mathematica instead of MatLab. Mathematica documents can include text/titles/formulas with explanation so that they're a living document that is quite easy to add to over time and is descriptive for students (rather than looking like commented code). The experience should be the same regardless of whether you're creating a document, or working with a saved document.

Here's a nice courseware set from a fellow Faculty Program Member at MIT to show examples for engineering (hope this link shows up correctly):
http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Materials-Sci ... /index.htm

It sounds like a live tutorial would be helpful, and it would be helpful for us to hear where things stopped being intuitive for you.

Just contact me at <kelvinm@wolfram.com>, I'd enjoy setting up a time for a conversation. thanks!

Kelvin Mischo
(I'm with Wolfram in case the forum format doesn't make that obvious!)
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Re: Top Mathematica features for engineering students?

Postby bsyehuda » Tue Mar 30, 2010 9:31 pm

I just recently joined this forum, and since I'm teaching Engineering students for a long time I can safely add my 5 penny worth of impression. I will give my personal impression and what our student choose when they are not enforced to choose one software over the other.
Personal
In teaching I'm using Mathematica for at least 10 years, and this is how long Mathematica is used in my department since I'm the local "enthusiastic". We give freshman year students a "lab" divided half a semester for matlab and half a semester Mathematica (two hours weakly). They already got a Java course a semester earlier,so programming is not a new issue for them. Courses where Matlab/Mathematica is used are (for undergraduates):
1. Graph Theory
2. Queueing Theory
3. Signal Processing
4. Information Theory
5. Communication Theory
6. Algorithms
7. Sensor networks
... and a collection of other courses where the professor require some mathematical/algorithmic simulation / research
for courses 1,2,4,6,7 the students are asked to use Mathematica by the professors. In course 3 the professor is a matlab fan but the students prefer to do the assignments with Mathematica. We usually enforce them to use matlab since we want them to practice it more. Course 5 is a natural for matlab not because of matlab itself, but because of the availability of the communication toolbox.
Courses for graduates use Mathematica (if any simulation tool is required).

As a teacher I write my lecture note, my slides and demonstrations with Mathematica, in each course I teach. I have tried almost any available tool for these purposes (slides and scientific writing) and I find it the best tool for my needs.
I wonder what was meant by
They calculate fine until they are saved. At that point, everything gets hard-coded into pure text
.
I have notebooks generated 7 years ago, and besides the fact that I needed to keep my own style notebooks (no need anymore since version 6) they are kept as they were written. Text (formatted of course), running code, notes etc.

A friend of mine is teaching the matlab/Mathematica lab. I presented in his matlab sessions, and this was really poor (and the guy is a real matlab expert) compared to the Mathematica slides (which I generated for him).

About one half of our faculty members (we are a small department, 11 members) use Mathematica for their courses.

Students
I think that the part of the students is almost obvious. They prefer Mathematica, since they really can PROGRAM with it, and not only use it as a tool. For use it for mathematics and physic courses when they discover hos it can expand their understanding (I didn't list their courses). For matrix processing in various courses we usually find them using Mathematica. For displaying results of field measurement (cannot be done with matlab, easy with Mathematica) they use Mathematica.

As a concluding remarks, I may sound one sided towards Mathematica but this was an evolving preference rather than a "religious decision": I was the first matlab user in my university as a grad student (M.Sc.), then I used matlab as a daily working tool for two years in the industry. After that, the simulation part of my PhD were mostly done with matlab (I'm not so young ... ). I used Mathematica for symbolic When I became a faculty I decided to choose a single tool that will best serve my needs, and I picked Mathematica which combined at the time (version 3.5) typesetting, programming, "live documents" (code + text) and it is getting better with each version. Version 5 closed the performance difference of the numerical part (until then matlab was substantially faster) but this was almost 7 years ago (summer 2003).

So, if one is looking for recommendation it is clear what I will recommend, but the teacher need to be a skilled MAthematica user

best

yehuda
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Re: Top Mathematica features for engineering students?

Postby Michael_Fanelli » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:15 pm

Regarding the format of documents, I actually hear the opposite from engineering faculty as a reason to use Mathematica instead of MatLab. Mathematica documents can include text/titles/formulas with explanation so that they're a living document that is quite easy to add to over time and is descriptive for students (rather than looking like commented code). The experience should be the same regardless of whether you're creating a document, or working with a saved document.


Yes, I understand the need in many situations to have the work one has coded "carved in stone." That can be the legal requirement in many labs. But our students are freshmen and sophomores. They need to be able to take their notebooks, make changes, do what-ifs, share them with others in an interactive way. If our students have to retype everything to make the equations live again, they just won't do it.

Matlab can be changed. If a line is edited, for example changing "x" from 5 to 10, the entire document can be rerun with the change in effect. With Mathematica, every line of math has to be retyped, whether it has been changed or not. Tedious.

I was hoping that Mathematica could be used in an ad-hoc manner without having to complete everything in one just session. I really like the way MathCad does this: every document stays live no matter how many times its saved. That product, alas, just won't do it for us plus it only runs on Windows.

Nice MIT web site. I really like their open courseware offerings and have borrowed ideas from them before! However, the one pointed out is much too advanced for our budding engineers.
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