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ENGR 115 Syllabus

Introduction to Engineering Computation

Spring 2018

Saint Vincent College

General Information

  • 3 credits
  • Prerequisite: MA 111
  • Instructor: Brother David Carlson
  • Office: Dupre Science Pavilion, Tenley Hall W217
  • Office hours:
    • Mon, Fri 8:30 am - 9:20 am
    • Tue, Thurs 8:30 am - 9:50 am
    • Mon, Fri 10:30 am - 11:20 am
    • Mon 2:00 pm - 2:50 pm
    • Tue 2:00 pm - 4:30 pm
    • Thurs 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
    • and by appointment
  • Phone: 724-805-2416
  • Email:
  • Required text: MATLAB for Engineers by Holly Moore (5th ed., 2018). ISBN: 978-0-13-458964-0. Since the exams are open-book without the use of any computers or other devices, do not get an electronic form of the text.


This course is designed for students enrolled in the Engineering Science degree at St. Vincent College. We will be learning the basics of how to use the MATLAB software package as a tool for calculation, data processing, visualization, and problem solving, especially in engineeering. The skills learned in this course are intended to serve as tools to make problems in engineering and other technical fields easier to solve, and students should attempt to incorporate MATLAB expertise into their problem-solving strategies in other courses. No programming experience is necessary to enroll in the course, but students should be familiar with basic calculus (calculus I).

Core Goals

This course contributes especially toward the following core curriculum goals, listed in order of emphasis. Writing good mathematics and MATLAB code in the solution of problems is the key communication skill for this course, but also included is the written documentation for the MATLAB solutions to homework and the project.

  1. To develop mathematical skills and quantitative literacy
  2. To form habits of ordered inquiry, logical thinking, and critical analysis
  3. To develop effective communication skills

ABET Student Outcomes

Goals Applicable to this course
a) students will have an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering                X
b) students will have an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data  
c) students will have an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability  
d) students will have an ability to function on multidisciplinary teams  
e) students will have an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems  
f) students will have an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility  
g) an ability to communicate effectively                X
h) students will have the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context  
i) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning  
j) students will have a knowledge of contemporary issues  
k) students will have an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice                X

Course Objectives

Upon completion of ENGR 115, students will:

  1. Be familiar with the MATLAB software and coding language, and basic programming terminology.
  2. Be able to use MATLAB to perform calculations on scalars, vectors, and arrays.
  3. Be able to use MATLAB to process large sets of data and create professional plots for communicating the data to an audience.
  4. Be able to solve systems of linear equations using MATLAB.
  5. Be familiar with conditional programming, functions, repetition (loop) structures, and be able to develop algorithms that perform useful calculations using these structures.
  6. Become aware of some advanced capabilities of MATLAB.
  7. Be able to use MATLAB in their solution process, in order to reduce calculation time and effort, minimize calculation errors, and enable parametric studies.

Methods Used to Reach These Goals

Lectures, demonstrations, and class discussion are used to assist students in mastering the course material. Homework assignments and the project are designed to allow students to grow in their understanding of the topics at hand. Exams and occasional quizzes provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have learned.

Topical Outline

  • Chapters 1, 2, 3: Using MATLAB and basic calculations
  • Chapter 4: Working with matrices
  • Chapter 7: Input and output
  • Chapters 5, 13: Plotting data, numerical techniques
  • Chapters 6, 8, 9: Logic and structures
  • Chapter 14: Images and animations
  • Chapter 10: Matrix algebra

Grading and Course Policies

  • Midterm Exam 25%
  • Final Exam 25%
  • Homework 25%
  • Quizzes 10%
  • Final Project 15%

Homework and Exams

Letter grades will be given using the scale found in the College Bulletin. Exams will be announced in advance. Both exams and quizzes will be open-book, pencil and paper in nature. No use of computers or other devices such as phones, tablets, etc. The only exception is calulators, as they may be used on exams and quizzes. In fact, they may be necessary to answer some exam questions. Calculators are not to be shared among students. Be sure to bring to each exam your textbook, notes from class, handouts, homework solutions, and example programs. However, you must still be well-prepared as it is not possible to look up how to solve every problem in the time given. Homework and test answers are expected to be written using good English, well-written code, and good mathematics. These items will be graded not just on correctness, but also on the clarity of the presentation. This is intended to help the student to develop good written communications skills.

Producing a Good Class

Both the instructor and students are expected to do their best to produce a good class and to treat each other with respect. This includes many factors, such as listening when someone else is speaking, trying to understand what others are saying, being of assistance to others, etc. It definitely does NOT include making fun of others. On a practical level, do your best to improve your grade: read the course materials, attend class, do the homework, ask questions, and try to answer questions in class! Computer science requires active participation and repeated practice. If you begin to feel lost, consult the tutor, see the instructor, or work through the difficulties with the help of another student in the course (but without committing program plagiarism). Do not let yourself get behind. In fact, one key to academic success is to start early on homework and other tasks. Last-minute miracles seldom work, particularly with software development! Note in particular that attendance is expected. Student performance is bound to deteriorate when classes are missed.

Course Policies

  1. Each unexcused class absence after the first 3 results in 1.5 percentage points being deducted from the final course grade.
  2. Arriving late for class or leaving early (without a proper excuse) is counted as 1/2 of an absence.
  3. An unexcused absence from an exam results in the failure of the course.
  4. Unexcused absence from more than one-third of the semester's classes results in the failure of the course.
  5. Attendance is used to decide borderline grades at the end of the semester.
  6. Late work is not accepted unless resulting from an excused absence or other significant complication, but partial credit is given for incomplete homework that is submitted on time.
  7. Written documentation (such as a note from a doctor's office or coach of one's sports team) is normally required for an absence to be excused. Always bring a copy of such a note to give to your instructor when you can do so. In special circumstances, check with your instructor, as it is not always possible to get documentation.

Make-up Exams

Make-up exams are strongly discouraged. If possible, take the regularly scheduled exam. For an excused absence or other significant reason, the instructor may agree to give a make-up exam. Whenever possible, see your instructor ahead of time if you know you must miss an exam (e.g. due to sports). Normally some type of written documentation is required (such as a note from the coach, doctor, etc.). If the documentation or reason for missing an exam is poor, the student can count on receiving a significantly more difficult exam, if one is given at all! Do ask about a makeup exam if you have a good reason to miss an exam, even if documentation is not readily available, as it is understood that illnesses and other complications do happen.

Exam Questions

Exams will ask critical thinking questions that require careful analysis (often using mathematics), explanation, and meaningful conclusions. For example, you might be presented with a section of a MATLAB script and asked to trace what it does, to write the documentation describing at a high level what this section does, or to give an alternative implementation of this section. You might also be asked to write a section of MATLAB code that carries out a particular task or to write in mathematics and English how to solve a certain engineering problem. A few multiple choice or true/false questions may also be included.

Homework and the Project

The only real way to learn computational methods is to practice using them frequently. Therefore, homework will be assigned often. Homework usually consists of producing MATLAB scripts, making plots to visualize results, and using appropriate mathematics in solving engineering problems. Programming involves typing code, running it, and fixing it as necessary. Assignments normally require careful planning and the use of several hours of out-of-class time. Plan to have each homework or project done early so that there will be time to test it and to fix the problems that testing usually reveals. Engineering a solution requires a development process that sometimes cannot be done at one sitting. You may need to allot several hours over multiple days to do longer assignments and especially the project. Note that it nearly always takes longer than you expect! In this course you will be asked to write MATLAB code that totals about 1 to 3 pages in length for each assignment, including well-written documentation. The final project might be somewhat longer and will be included in the Undergraduate Research Conference on Wednesday, April 25. You are expected to be present, in one of the two time slots, to explain your project to the people who come by to see the projects.

Students may be assigned to small groups for the purpose of doing a few of the homework assignments. All other homework assignments must be done separately by each individual. The purpose of group homework is to allow students to learn from each other, to solve larger and more complex problems, and to provide practice at cooperative projects like those demanded by many job situations. Further information about group assignments will be provided during the course.

Assignments are due anytime on the date given and are normally turned in electronically. The details of how to do this will be discussed in class. Exceptions to these deadlines are only granted for serious reasons and normally require written documentation of the reasons.

Intellectual Honesty and Plagiarism

Every homework assignment should list all sources that contributed to the solution. This would include the individual student (on an individual assignment) or the students assigned to a group (in a group assignment). It may also include the instructor, the tutor, a reference book, a web site, etc. You may not consult other students (or other students not in your group for a group assignment). If you need assistance, the best person to consult is the instructor, with the tutor as another good possibility. You may not look at the homework solution (in whole or in part) for another student in this course or show yours (even a part of it) to another student in the course unless this is a group assignment and you are in the same group. You may not work out the design or solution for a homework assignment with one or more other students from the course unless you were specifically assigned to work together on this problem as a group project. If you break one of the conditions spelled out in the last two sentences, then this is a case of plagiarism. See the next paragraph for how this gets handled and the possible consequences.

Intellectual honesty is important at Saint Vincent College. Attempts to pass off the work of another as one's own, or group work as one's individual work, etc. will result in action appropriate to the seriousness of the situation. If there is some doubt as to whether or not you solved a homework assignment yourself, you may be asked to explain the solution. If you can do so, that provides good evidence that you did do the assignment yourself. All cases of apparent intellectual dishonesty will be referred to the administration. If the administration does not say what to do about the grades in such a case, the first offense will involve a significant grade penalty (such as a grade of zero) on the assignment, while a second offense may result in failure of the course. In this course, students are expected to do entirely their own work on exams, quizzes, and individual homework assignments. Homework assigned to a group should not include work from a different group. Assignments that are unduly similar (which means that a prudent individual would reasonably conclude that the assignments were done by the same person or collection of persons) will be reported to the administration as likely cases of plagiarism. If you really do your own work, you will not produce something that is unduly similar to someone else's work. Note, too, that copying someone else's work does little to help you to learn the material. Remember that you are responsible for knowing how to solve the homework problems and that you will have to face the test questions on your own.

Policy Documents

Be sure to read the Regulations section of the College Bulletin (which covers such things as grading, academic honesty, etc.) and the Student Handbook (which covers academic honesty, classroom etiquette, etc.).

Title IX: Sexual Misconduct and Harassment

Saint Vincent faculty are committed to helping create a safe learning environment for all students and for the college as a whole. If you have experienced any form of gender or sex-based discrimination or harassment, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner (dating or domestic) violence, sexual exploitation, or stalking, know that help and support are available. Saint Vincent College has staff members trained to support students in navigating campus life, accessing health and counseling services, providing academic and housing accommodations, and more. The College strongly encourages all students to report any such incidents.

Please be aware that all Saint Vincent employees (other than those designated as confidential employees such as counselors, clergy and healthcare providers) are required to report information about such discrimination and harassment. This means that I have a mandatory duty to report to the Title IX Coordinator any information I receive about possible sexual misconduct. This includes information shared in class discussions or assignments, as well as information shared in conversations outside class. The Title IX Coordinator will contact you to inform you of your rights and options and connect you with support resources, including possibilities for holding accountable the person who harmed you. Know that you will not be forced to share information and your level of involvement will be your choice. The purpose of reporting is to allow Saint Vincent to take steps to ensure that you are provided with any necessary resources needed and to provide a safe learning environment for all.

The College's Title IX Coordinator is:
Eileen K. Flinn, Esq.
Saint Vincent College
Second Floor, Alfred Hall

The College also has confidential resources available, who can provide assistance to those who have experienced sexual misconduct without triggering a mandatory reporting duty. More information about confidential resources is available at

If you wish to speak to a confidential employee who does not have this reporting responsibility, you can contact Campus Ministry at 724-805-2350 or the Wellness Center in the Carey Student Center at 724-805-2115. For more information regarding your rights and options, please see the Sexual Misconduct and Harassment policy which can be found on MySVC portal under Quick Links or on the web at

Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities who may be eligible for academic accommodations and support services should contact Ms. Marisa Carlson, Director of Academic Accommodations and Academic Advisor, by phone (724-805-2828), email ( or by appointment (Academic Affairs-Headmasters Hall). Reasonable accommodations do not alter the essential elements of any course, program or activity. The Notification of Approved Academic Accommodations form indicates the effective date of all approved academic accommodations and is not retroactive.

Class Cancellation

If the instructor needs to cancel class, every effort will be made to send an email message to students' Saint Vincent email accounts.

Maintained by: Br. David Carlson
Last updated: January 12, 2018