2.086 | Spring 2013 | Undergraduate

Numerical Computation for Mechanical Engineers


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Recitations: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


This course is based on MATLAB®. MIT students can run MATLAB on their own laptops, or use the shared machines in the class recitation/lab room.

[Note to OCW Users: MIT OpenCourseWare does not provide student access or discounts for MATLAB software. It can be purchased from The MathWorks®. For more information about MATLAB Pricing and Licensing, contact The MathWorks® directly.]

Course Objectives


An understanding (in some cases review) of the mathematical ingredients on which numerical methods are based: calculus, probability and statistics, linear algebra, and differential equations.

An understanding of the basic “canon” of numerical approaches and numerical methods relevant to mechanical engineering: To what problems does an approach or method apply? How does the method work? How does the method compare to alternatives (in terms of appropriate computational metrics)? What can go wrong? What are the sources of error and uncertainty?

An understanding of elementary programming concepts and of the basic MATLAB architecture/environment, data types, syntax, and mathematical/numerical routines.


The ability to formulate an engineering problem in a mathematical form appropriate for subsequent computational treatment and to choose an appropriate numerical approach.

The ability to select and use (or reject) third-party numerical programs with confidence.

The ability to solve mechanical engineering problems by computational approaches through a combination of ad hoc MATLAB scripts (typically rather short) and validated and informed calls to MATLAB or third-party numerical routines.

The ability to create meaningful test cases to confirm correct implementation of a computational approach.

Attitudes and Professional Values

A commitment to always test codes thoroughly and to always provide with any numerical prediction or recommendation some indication of error and uncertainty—and associated engineering implications—due to numerical treatment (and modeling error, however the latter is the emphasis of other MechE subjects).

Course Textbook

The textbook for the course is the online textbook Math, Numerics, & Programming (for Mechanical Engineers) by M. Yano, J.D. Penn, G. Konidaris, and A.T. Patera, and is available for download in the Readings section.


Assessment is based on two components: six assignments and two quizzes. The relative weights associated with these components are listed here:

First Half of Semester
Assignments 1, 2, 3 12.5% each
Quiz 1 12.5%
Second Half of Semester
Assignments 4, 5, 6 12.5% each
Quiz 2 12.5%

Instructor evaluation of student effort, independence, and engagement can also play a role in the determination of final course grades.

Policy on Collaboration


Students may discuss all class material and assignments at length with one another, including derivations and code. But there can be no written transcript, no code transfer, and no electronic record whatsoever of a session: upon terminating a discussion, the blackboard must be erased, the paper recycled, the screen cleared, and all files deleted; any take-away must be exclusively in each student’s own head. Students choosing to collaborate must both honor these rules and furthermore list their collaborators in each relevant MATLAB script or function.


No collaboration is permitted on quizzes. Furthermore, as the same quiz will be given asynchronously to the different recitation sections (and also in make-up sessions as needed), the quiz should not be discussed with any parties until the semester is over.

During the quizzes a student may only access MATLAB, material available on the course website, and his/her own assignments or lecture notes.


Students must do their part in honoring the rules. Infringements will be brought up as appropriate with the relevant committees within MIT, which will in turn recommend appropriate action. If a student is in doubt as to what constitutes acceptable practices, he/she should contact an instructor.

Late Submission Policy

No credit will be received for late submissions of assignments for students with unexcused absences. If an excused absence is furnished, then a student should discuss and set new due dates with an instructor. Credit will be received for late submissions for students with excused absences.

Make-up Quiz Policy

Students who cannot take a quiz at the scheduled quiz time due to an excused absence should arrange for a 3-hour block in which to take a proctored make-up quiz. Except in extreme instances, the make-up quiz should take place within three school days of the originally scheduled quiz date.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2013
Learning Resource Types
Problem Sets
Online Textbook
Demonstration Videos