Review of Engineering with Mathcad
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Title: Engineering with Mathcad: Using Mathcad to Create and Organize your Engineering Calculations
Author: Brent Maxfield, P.E.
Publisher: Elsevier, © 2006
Number of Pages: 494
Brent Maxfield’s Engineering with Mathcad is a valuable contribution to the engineering community that may do much to help those in engineering and the sciences in general jumpstart their efforts to learn and apply Mathcad, or to help long-time users strengthen their skills. The book is accessible, engaging, and written from the perspective of one who has dealt the practical aspects of Mathcad for many years. It comes with a useful CD having a handbook and all the examples in the text, allowing the users to easily follow along and work with the material being discussed. The CD also can be used to install Mathcad 13 for PC or Mac with a 120-day academic license.
The book covers a broad scope of material effectively, and should provide useful new insights even for power users. However, the book is not intended to provide a comprehensive guide to the functions and plotting features of Mathcad. For example, there is no significant discussion of solving differential equations. Indeed, many of the engineering applications covered are relatively basic, with the emphasis being more on how to use Mathcad effectively rather than how to tackle complex engineering problems. Given the burgeoning scope of Mathcad’s tool and the many powerful features it has that experienced users may have been missing, Maxfield’s approach represents a reasonable editorial decision to cover Mathcad broadly rather than to teach engineering mathematics or dive into the complexities of any of the numerous areas of interest in engineering.
The book may be especially valuable for those who are relatively new at Mathcad or who, like myself, have Mathcad experience but may not have used it for some time and need a refresher. But a carefully selected swathe of sophisticated aspects of Mathcad are treated that may be helpful to longtime Mathcad users who simply had no idea about some of the tools and capabilities they were overlooking.
With his years of Mathcad experience, Maxfield offers many tips, sometimes subtle, to guide users in creating worksheets, preventing errors, maintaining readability, selecting useful variable names, and so forth.
While the companion CD is useful and highly appreciated, advanced engineering students who are facing challenges with differential equations or other common topics would clearly benefit from additional more advanced sample worksheets. I think future editions of the book would do well to add additional workfiles on the companion CD. When I saw the entries on the CD for chapter 24, hinting at pages on seismic loads, beams and joists, etc., I though such examples might be there, but they are just placeholder pages for demonstrating the use of hyperlinks in a table of contents.
Indeed, for the future, not only would I recommend a more extensive set of examples on the CD, but also the addition of a Website where registered owners of the book or others could contribute solutions, discuss the text, and look at more detailed and complex examples, or receive additional tips from the author.
In general, I recommend Maxfield’s book as an easy-to-read, well organized guide to help a wide range of Mathcad users learn techniques useful for engineering and many other fields as well.
A few minor quibbles: The chapters entitled “Useful Information” could use more descriptive titles, or be added as sidebars or summary sections elsewhere. I think they create a confusing table of contents.
For engineering calculations, the precision of computations may be important. I did not notice a description of Mathcad’s limitation of 15 digits. “Precision” is not an entry in the table of contents (though the term is a paragraph header on page. 98). Pp. 102-103 would have been one good place to discuss this.
Some discussion of differential equations would be helpful.
Organizationally, I also think the first chapter might well contain a rapid-fire overview of some of the features of Mathcad to give those new to Mathcad but with advanced engineering and scientific skills a strong flavor of the power of this sophisticated tool.
And perhaps a list of additional online resources would be good – most preferably a reference to a Website prepared by or for the author that can be updated with the best online resources, additional worksheet examples, corrections of any weaknesses in the text, etc.
In general, I congratulate the author for an excellent book that I think will be helpful to numerous Mathcad users.