Introduction to Mathematica

Course Outline

Mathematica is a powerful computational tool for engineers and scientists. In this lesson, you will learn the development history and basic features of Mathematica. In particular, you will learn how to enter text, build mathematical expressions, create graphs, make interactive models, and utilize data. You will also see a complete example built within the Mathematica environment.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of course materials.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this course, the student will:

• Understand the functionality of Mathematica;
• Be familiar with the interface, graphics, text and computational features of Mathematica; and
• Be able to perform simple engineering calculations using Mathematica.

Course Introduction

Math is everywhere and in everything. From bridges to high-rises, from roller-coasters to the space shuttle, math is critical to today's high-tech society. Mathematica by Wolfram Research makes math easy and approachable for users from college students to professional engineers who are at the cutting edge of some of the most important and demanding technical environments in the world.

Mathematica is a valuable technical computing tool for engineers and architects. You can think of Mathematica as a combination of

•  a powerful technical computing environment centered on real math notation, and
•  a flexible, full-featured, technical word processor.

Mathematica provides a rich problem-solving environment that gives you a wide variety of analysis and visualization tools. Unlike other technical software, Mathematica does math the same way you do. That is because it looks and works like a scratchpad and pencil. Mathematica's on-screen interface is a blank notebook on which you can enter equations, graph data or functions, and annotate with text - anywhere on the notebook.

Mathematical expressions in Mathematica look the way you would see them in a textbook or a reference book. The only difference is that Mathematica's equations and graphs are live, which means Mathematica recalculates the math and redraws the graphs every time you change any data, variable, or equation in a notebook. This feature in Mathematica is called "Computable Document Format."

In addition to the Computable Document Format, another important feature that sets Mathematica apart from other technical computing tools is its built-in support for units. Mathematica can handle unit conversion automatically within a worksheet.

Therefore, the technical documents prepared using Mathematica can be easily understood and verified by others. In addition, using Mathematica in your work can relieve you from tedious and repetitive design calculations, eliminate arithmetic errors, and produce quality design calculations.

Course Content

In this lesson, you will learn the historical background and basic features of Mathematica by watching the following videos:

1. Stephen Wolfram on the Background and Vision of Mathematica (27:12 video)
2. Announcing the Computable Document Format (CDF): Bring Documents to Life with the Power of Computation (19:26 video)
3. Hands-on Start to Mathematica: Notebooks (4:18 video)
4. Hands-on Start to Mathematica: Methods to get started (10:23 video)
5. Hands-on Start to Mathematica: Basic calculations (8:07 video)
6. Hands-on Start to Mathematica: Basic graphics (9:54 video)
7. Hands-on Start to Mathematica: Making interactive models (5:12 video)
8. Hands-on Start to Mathematica: Utilizing data (3:57 video)
9. Hands-on Start to Mathematica: Presentations (3:47 video)
10. Hands-on Start to Mathematica: Complete example (4:14 video)

and study the following tutorials:

11. How to Use Mathematica (PDF, 9 pages)
12. Introduction to Mathematica - A (PDF, 5 pages)
13. Introduction to Mathematica - B (PDF, 9 pages)

To gain a better understanding of the basic features of Mathematica, you need to download a copy of a free 30-day trial version of Mathematica from Mathematica.com. Once you install the software, you may try various commands and features within a notebook or access more commands of Mathematica in its Documentation Center. In addition, you may take General Mathematica Online Courses to learn the specifics of the Mathematica.

Course Summary

This course covers some of the basic features of Mathematica, which include interface features, graphical features, computational features, and text and document features. Through this online course, the student should be able to use Mathematica to solve some of the routine design problems in his/her design practice.