These pages were developed by Andrew K. Smith, a technical fellow from Yale who spent the summer in my lab way back in 1998. I believe this was version 5.2.x R11 or maybe version 6. Some of what you will read and see here is quite outdated. Also, the tutorial was written for a freshman engineering course I was teaching at that time. The screen captures were intended to closely match the network configuration associated with our class and so will be different than whatever you are now using to work with this package.

I continue to recommend these information pages and Matlab exercises to those students who have never worked with Matlab. Over the past 10 years or so it has been my experience that even those engineering students having limited experiences with numerical computing environments can get up to speed on this most excellent tool after a couple of days. Once you work through the six core lessons I recommend you then turn to the many help features available in more current versions of Matlab as well as the many, many helpful sites available out there in cyberspace.

If you are confident in your computing experiences then perhaps it is best you skip the introductory sections and just portal to the exercises.

MATLAB is a computer program that can be very helpful in solving the sorts of mathematical problems you will frequently encounter throughout your engineering or technology coursework. You can use MATLAB's built-in features to effortlessly solve a wide variety of numerical problems, from the very basic, such as a system of 2 equations with 2 unknowns:

X + 2Y = 24
12X - 5Y = 10

to the more complex, such as factoring polynomials, fitting curves to data points, making calculations using matrices, performing signal processing operations such as Fourier transforms, computing and visualizing chaotic dynamical systems and fractal patterns, and building and training neural networks. A very powerful and often very useful aspect of MATLAB is that it can be used to plot many different kinds of graphs, enabling you to visualize complex mathematical functions and laboratory data. For example, the three
images to the right were created using MATLAB's plotting functions.

Where Do I Go from Here?

car2.gif (6004 bytes)Learning MATLAB is just like learning how to drive a car. You can learn all the rules but to become a good driver you have to get out on the road and drive. So, the easiest and best way to learn MATLAB is to use MATLAB. If you have a very strong background in mathematics and computer programming (e.g. junior/senior engineering student) then you can quickly learn how MATLAB can help you with your course work and design projects by using the built-in help utilities or our school's course specific MATLAB tutorial pages. However, for those of you who are just starting out or would like to take a more pedantic approach to learning MATLAB then this tutorial is for you.

A Piece of Advice

listen_up.jpg (2303 bytes)If you are new to our school then listen up! In many of your math, physics and technical classes you will be able to use MATLAB to help you with your homework problems. Indeed, MATLAB can even make it easier for you to learn and understand your course material and complex engineering principles. This is because MATLAB can easily be used to analyze the same problem a variety of ways. Indeed, each year more and more of our professors are using MATLAB in teaching their course materials. So, the bottom line is that you should learn how to use MATLAB now so that you can make the most of this valuable tool throughout your plan of study here in the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology.

Prerequisites and Expectations

  1. You should have the basic computer skills needed to work with the Windows XP operating system running on our school's PCs. For example, you should be comfortable with starting applications, opening, closing and saving files, cutting and pasting text, directory structures, etc.
  2. You should have basic web skills such as using a browser, following hyperlinks, opening web site locations, etc. If you have gotten here to this page, then you should be just fine.
  3. You should have a CNC computer account, know the locations of the CNC computer labs and how to use the computers and printers in these labs at a basic level. Click here to find out more about CNC and how to obtain an account.
  4. You should know how to use a text editor, such as Windows Notepad, that you can use to write MATLAB programs. MATLAB also has its own built-in text editor which you can use (we'll show you how).
  5. You should know basic algebra and trigonometry such as is typically covered in high school. Knowledge of basic linear algebra (i.e., concepts such as matrix, vector, inverse, etc.) would also be very helpful but is not strictly necessary; basic concepts and constructs from linear algebra will be explained as needed.
  6. The tutorial is intended to be highly interactive. While you are reading the exercise pages you should have MATLAB running in a separate window and you should perform and experiment with the tutorial exercises.
  7. There are many people on campus who use MATLAB. If you're really stuck on something, you need only to ask the person sitting next to you, send an e-mail to one of your class Teaching Assistants or one of your professors.

Getting Your Own Copy of MATLAB

The MATLAB software package is available for many different kinds of computers. If you want, you can buy a copy of MATLAB for your own PC and work at home. A student edition of MATLAB is available from the campus bookstore at a cost of around $100 for use on either Windows or Macintosh systems.

However, as long as you have a web accessible computer and a CNC account you can always use the CNC 24 hour remote access server to run this and other software packages available through our School.

Let's Go!

lets_go2.gif (5372 bytes)To start the MATLAB tutorial, click here.

Good luck and have fun with MATLAB! Please experiment with MATLAB as much as you can, because the best way to learn MATLAB is by using MATLAB.

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Please contact John Schild (jschild[AT] concerning this site.