UNLV Professor, One of Maple’s Earliest Users, Continues to Rely on the Power of Maple in the Classroom - Maplesoft

User Case Study:
UNLV Professor, One of Maple’s Earliest Users, Continues to Rely on the Power of Maple in the Classroom

Darrell Pepper, a professor at UNLV, was looking for a reliable tool for better engaging his students and making learning more interesting.

Pepper adopted Maple in its early years, and has continued to use it throughout his teaching career, due to its power and ability to remain relevant and effective over time.

Pepper’s students are enthusiastic about using Maple and are more engaged with class materials and projects. Pepper has also written two books on the finite element method, using Maple to illustrate concepts and short algorithms.

In a world where we are introduced to new technologies on a regular basis, there are some tools that are able to stand the test of time. Maple began as a research project at the University of Waterloo in the 1980s, and has continually evolved and adapted to meet the unique and ever-changing needs of institutions, educators and students for STEM programs. Darrell Pepper, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), has been using Maple since its early editions and continues to regularly incorporate it into his teaching. He views Maple as a valuable and powerful tool for engaging students and making learning more interesting.

Pepper was introduced to Maple when it was first developed at the University of Waterloo. He became interested in its capabilities and potential and started using it in his research. He has been using it since, preferring Maple’s power and ease of use to other tools. Even after all this time, with all the features and functionalities added over the years, there is still so much to discover in Maple, Pepper said. “Maple has allowed me to quickly develop and test concepts and ideas without the need for extensive programming and debugging,” he said.

Pepper has been teaching numerical methods for engineers for many years, using multiple tools in the process. When he first introduced Maple in his class, students quickly realized the power of the software and the great benefit it offered them. He later introduced examples from Maple in his fluid mechanics classes, and finite element and CFD classes. “I like Maple’s intuitive ease of input and quick response in solving many of my mathematical issues,” he said. “The depth and sophistication of Maple provides me with the feeling of having a mathematical expert that I can call upon at any time. I don’t get that feeling with many of the other math software packages on the market.”

Pepper’s students have shown great enthusiasm towards Maple due to its ease of use and efficiency of cost. The students are also drawn to Maple’s reliable ability in providing accurate results, identifying errors and providing quick solutions and feedback. “Students appreciate the ability to produce a solution and immediately see the effects of changing parameters, Pepper said. “They are always amazed at the few lines of coding required to setup and solve a problem.”

Pepper uses Maple to layout and test concepts and algorithms. He and his students convert Maple models to FORTRAN-based algorithms that run on a massive supercomputer at UNLV. In one instance, they were able to develop a microscale dispersion model that covered the start of the fracking process in oil drilling, eventually expanding the process (using fractured finite element techniques to establish cracking pathways) that reached many meters in scale. They have also used Maple to develop air pollution models that are being developed for use by emergency response personnel in the event of an atmospheric release or accident.

In another project, Pepper and his students used Maple to simulate ideal airflow over a Frisbee, later updating the algorithm to include a solution of the Navier-Stokes equations to model viscous incompressible flow over the Frisbee. They then built the world’s largest Frisbee – 10 feet in diameter – using composite material that was later thrown by one of his mechanical engineering students. “We’ve used Maple in many unique and interesting ways,” Pepper said. “I’m amazed at Maple’s progression over the years. I originally used software called TK Solver and thought it was a clever idea to utilize these types of packages. I was elated when Maple appeared some years later.”

Maple is a reliable tool that Pepper strongly recommends to others. He regularly uses Maple with both his undergraduate and graduate classes, and finds its power and features superior to similar tools on the market. “Maple resources provide a lot of support. I like the applications and the website for users to examine and download content,” he said. “And I particularly find value in Maple’s content sharing, such as the access to example problems and applications other users have uploaded to the Maple website. It is a highly-beneficial tool for me in my teaching.”

Pepper’s experience with Maple has motivated him to write two books on the finite element method. For the most recent book, he used Maple to illustrate concepts and short algorithms, and included code listings within the text using Maple and MATLAB. In Pepper’s experience, Maple is a more beneficial tool than MATLAB. “I think the big difference is the succinctness in Maple versus MATLAB,” he said. “We just recently developed a 2-D FEM recursion relation that uses the SIP method to solve transport equations – we no longer need a global matrix solver – and used Maple to verify the concept. I also used Maple to verify the meshless method.”

Pepper found Maple to be a useful tool from the moment he began using it and that hasn’t changed over the long number of years since his first introduction to the tool. “I have used other tools in the past, but find Maple to be much friendlier,” he said. “Maple’s flexibility to handle many different kinds of problems and its ease of use - made easier with the latest versions - remain its quality features. Its mathematical prowess seems to get better with each new release.”

Even with all the updates over the years, Maple hasn’t strayed from the core features that made it valuable to begin with, Pepper concluded. “I like the fact that I haven’t gotten lost with the latest bells and whistles and that the package still delivers.”

Contact Maplesoft to learn how Maple can be used in your classroom.