**Guest post by Cat McClintock**
Most students and professors get by with just the calculators and spreadsheets already on their computers. And when those aren't enough, they'll spend hours writing code for more specialized applications. In engineering and mathematics, that's been the go-to approach for decades.
But that doesn't make it the best approach. The truth is, if you're still relying on spreadsheets and calculators, you may be making your school year, your job search and your career tougher than they need to be. A better solution is to adopt engineering calculation software. Consider the following:
Engineering calculation software takes care of the tedium for you.
We all agree that engineers need a deep understanding of algebra. Yet by the time you're plowing through calculus, algebra no longer requires so much thought, and you shouldn't have to go through the mechanics of solving simple equations at a certain point.
"I had professors in college who would tell us that on tests we only had to set up the problem without having to actually solve it all out because they assumed that we knew how to perform algebraic manipulations," says Luke Westbrook, Associate Application Engineer at PTC.
Westbrook says engineering calculations are much the same. "Why waste time solving for a variable by hand? Even those that aren't challenging can often take up valuable time and pose the risk of errors or other easy-to-make mistakes."
Good calculation software can automate many common algebraic activities as shown in the image below. Westbrook used PTC Mathcad to automatically solve for a simple circuit design that might use basic math, but a lot of manual effort, to complete by hand.
And note, some systems can even take the worry out of keeping track of signs and units, so your hard work isn't brought down by a misplaced millimeter or a forgotten -1.
Engineering calculation software helps you reuse work—yours and others'!
With engineering calculations software, you can cut homework time by leveraging work you (or others) have already done for common tasks. That means you don't have to reprogram specialized functions again and again. Just reuse a pre-made worksheet. Some software companies and communities make hundreds of these available online.
"We here at PTC have added tons of content on our community page for you to download for free," says Tim Bond, another Application Engineer at PTC. "There are hundreds of free worksheets that can assist you in math, science, and engineering courses."
Plus, with some engineering math software, the resulting math is as attractive as your textbook pages, as in the image below. Teachers appreciate that.
Engineering calculation software better prepares you for professional engineering challenges.
One of the most important things in engineering school is to make sure you're developing the skills you will use in the professional world. Today, hundreds of thousands of professionals use engineering calculations software. And as you might guess, employers look for recent graduates with experience using that same software their teams use. Get familiar with it now, and you'll hit the ground running when your new career begins.
Engineering calculation software can help illustrate complicated concepts when the math is too advanced for your audience.
If you're a professor, engineering calculation software can also help illustrate the effect of changing variables on the physical world.
Dr. Barry Pointon, who teaches nuclear medicine technology to junior college students at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, provides a great example.
His program is challenging, and many of the concepts in his field are best explained with math that is well beyond the level of most of his students. "My job is to give them an intuition of how the math works," Dr. Pointon says. "I used to try to do that with an overhead projector, an acetate roll, and colored pens. I can tell you it was highly unsuccessful."
His solution today? Engineering calculations worksheets, combining images with the math that produces the images. Now, Dr. Pointon can change a variable, and students can instantly see how it impacts the image—without ever fully understanding the complicated equations behind it.
Engineering calculation software is available to students at low-cost or free.
Ready to make your semester a lot easier? We've got good news: You can download the same engineering calculations software the pros use.
PTC Mathcad does what spreadsheets, word processing, presentation software, and programming applications simply cannot do — it brings powerful engineering calculation capabilities into human-readable form. It integrates these readable, live calculations with plots, graphs, text, and images into a single, interactive, and professionally presented document.