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J.C. Castro1, L. Velazquez1, E. Crespo1, J.A. Monsoriu2

1Universidad de Pinar del Rio (CUBA)
2Universidad Politecnica de Valencia (SPAIN)
Computer-related skills are becoming every time more important in the engineer profile nowadays. It is common to see an increasing use of computational tools for the modeling and simulation of processes in the everyday scientific and professional life of engineers. This has to do with the fact that reasonable powerful computers are becoming commercially available at an affordable price and to the parallel development of numerical methods. In this respect computer based research constitutes a good alternative in front of costly experiments particularly in the developing countries.
Usually one can find three matters in the first year of the syllabus of engineering careers, namely, Calculus, Physics and Programming. Being Physics a matter lying on the grounds of technical engineering it becomes naturally appropriate to introduce the use of Calculus and Programming as useful tools in the context of a physics problem. This can be accomplished by moving some Practical Classes of Physics into the Computer Pool and by reformulating the physics problems in order to make them more suitable for this kind of approach. In this environment, students put together, for instance, programming tools, numerical methods and computer tools for data analysis along with the physical laws in order to address more realistic models, different from those which can usually be treated on the blackboard. The computational physics problems increase the motivation of the engineer student by embedding them into sceneries whose models are closer to those behind real problems which they will be facing later in their professional and scientific activities. This is particularly relevant since in the first year of the engineering careers the development of computer-related professional skills is somehow skipped.
In the present work we will illustrate some experiences about the use of computational physics problems in General Physics Courses for engineering careers. One of the example problems that we will comment is the motion of a body subject to air resistance and the other is pendulum problem but going but beyond small oscillation approximation, being both usual problems treated in the first year Physics course.