Engineering Undergraduates at BME Using Symbolic Math Toolbox to Learn Symbolic Computation
“The introduction of MATLAB® Online™ and MATLAB Grader™ ensures that all our students have equal learning opportunities and can always ask for support… Plus, the feedback we get from our students is very positive.
– Dr. Arpad Forberger, a Dynamics Course coordinator at Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME)
Provide first-year engineering students with the basic knowledge of how to use symbolic computation in engineering mechanics problems needed to undertake the further study required to obtain a Bachelor of Engineering.
Use Symbolic Math Toolbox™ and its Live Script format to teach the fundamentals of dynamics; use MATLAB Grader to scale assessments and automatically grade students’ work.
- Transferable skills learned
- Independent learning enabled
- Course changes simplified
Professors at BME, Faculty of Transportation Engineering, and Vehicle Engineering are constantly on the lookout for new ideas and learning techniques to support student learning in large groups. This is especially important when it comes to teaching first-year foundation courses such as one in Dynamics, which will serve as a basis for students to build on as they proceed further in their studies.
Using Symbolic Math Toolbox™ and its Live Script format in the curriculum allows professors to introduce the use of symbolic computation in modern math in an engaging and understandable way.
“I believe every undergraduate engineering student should gain experience using a computer algebra system. Exposure to MATLAB and LiveScript in the first year is beneficial for students in their second and third-year project-based assignments, as well as in postgraduate research. Furthermore, it’s a valuable skill they can highlight on their CVs,” says Dr. Arpad Forberger, a Dynamics Course coordinator at BME.
With more than 400 students taking the course in Dynamics each year, a primary challenge for professors is ensuring that every student has the opportunity to gain proper understanding of symbolic computation. “The task of any professor is to find a way to transfer the necessary knowledge to students in the most understandable and engaging way. However, when teaching in such large groups, I believe we can only achieve that by promoting independent learning. To do that, we need to make sure that every student who takes the course can access the required software from their own laptops and easily receive individual support should they need it,” explains Dr. Forberger.
BME obtained a campus-wide license (CWL), which allows professors and students to use MATLAB with its numerous toolboxes, MATLAB Grader, and Onramp courses. When Dr. Forberger and Dr. Béda began teaching Dynamics, they decided to take advantage of CWL and use the Symbolic Math Toolbox in MATLAB to introduce students to symbolic computation.
The course in Dynamics consists of one 14-week term. The lecturers introduce students to the Symbolic Math Toolbox in the first week through MATLAB Online. In the remaining 13 weeks, Dr. Forberger and Dr. Béda assign problems for the students to solve using the Symbolic Math Toolbox through MATLAB Grader.
With the help of Symbolic Math Toolbox and Onramp courses, students learn the fundamentals of MATLAB and how to evaluate expressions, solve equations symbolically, and perform differentiation and integration.
MATLAB Grader gives the lecturers a good overview of student progress and provides immediate feedback on proposed solutions. At the same time, MATLAB Grader lets students work independently on assigned projects, with support from Dr. Forberger and Dr. Béda only being provided when necessary.
- Transferable skills acquired. “The introduction of MATLAB Online and MATLAB Grader ensures that all our students have equal learning opportunities and can always ask for support… Plus, the feedback we get from our students is very positive,” says Dr. Forberger.
- Independent learning enabled. MATLAB Online allows students to work on their assignments anytime, anywhere. When ready to submit the assignment, they can easily do it via MATLAB Grader. The use of both enables students’ independent learning.
- Course changes simplified. “Once we converted the course from paper-based examples to Symbolic Math Toolbox, it became much easier to ensure that all materials are up to date and comply with the latest teaching standards,” notes Dr. Forberger.
All products mentioned in this user story are developed by MathWorks.
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