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Modeling and Simulation with MATLAB: A Case Study in Problem-Based Learning

Paul Curran, University College Dublin, Ireland

This presentation provides an overview of a module on numerical methods aimed primarily at engineers. Being a foundational module, the curriculum includes all of the standard material and algorithms which would be expected. However, embracing the motto that one learns by doing, the assessment is entirely problem or project based. Problems and projects are as realistic as is feasible, and students, as they derive from many engineering disciplines, are permitted to choose from an array of problems and projects or suggest their own. The module challenges the students, seeks to break down educational silos, and ultimately, by affording students the opportunity to solve problems which at first glance appear to be beyond their reach, seeks to instill confidence and even pride in their achievements. This pride derives in very large part from the first-principles approach and the quality of visualization of results demanded, and in this respect, MATLAB® plays a particularly significant role. Although in only its second year, the module has already established quite a reputation amongst the student body. It cannot be denied that some in the current class are dreading it, but likewise many are relishing it since it is closer to actual engineering than essentially anything that they have yet seen.

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