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Teaching electromagnetic waves to electrical engineering students: an abridged approach

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1 Author(s)
Temes, J.B. ; Dept. de Teoria del Senyal i Comunicacions, Univ. Politecnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain

This paper describes the rationale of a one semester sophomore level basic course on electromagnetic waves for electrical engineers (emphasis on communications), which avoids the mathematical complexity associated with Maxwell's equations (differential operators, vector potential, wave equation) with no loss of logical rigor nor substantial loss of formal rigor. The course is based in the postulation of the fields produced by an accelerated charge in the nonrelativistic limit, and the obtainment of a uniform plane wave as the limiting case of a spherical wave when observed far from the source. In this way, the student can begin working with the full vector description of electromagnetic waves and with relevant scientific and technical examples from the second course week, and his/her effort is directed more to the use and interpretation of waves than to their mathematical derivation. Further postulation of the Huygens-Fresnel principle puts the student in a position to tackle most of the basic problems of wave optics and radiation systems. Although some penalties are paid by this approach (more additional postulates are required; students miss the ability to solve boundary value problems; engineering textbooks are not written with this background; professors feel attached to the classical approach), it has been found much more efficient than the standard Maxwell's equations as an introduction to telecommunication topics. Also, students find it more interesting, motivating, and rewarding.

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Education, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:46 ,  Issue: 2 )