Required Computer Science Education in BME Undergraduate Programs
Data collected for the Biomedical Engineering Education Summit Meeting in 2019 showed that computer programming was required of undergraduates in biomedical engineering and bioengineering at more than 98% of the 57 accredited BME programs that responded to a survey. This is an increase over an earlier dataset from 2004, reflecting the increased need for engineers to be competent in programming. However, education in computer programming can take many forms, and there has been no attempt previously to understand whether there is any agreement across BME about what type of computing is important. While many universities offer elective courses in computer programming that can expand students’ knowledge, the present project was done to determine the frequency of requiring different types of programming courses, and whether generalizations can be made about the state of undergraduate BME education in this respect. Required computer courses for BME students can be assigned to several categories: 1) MATLAB, 2) object-oriented programming (e.g. Python, C++), 3) programming of microcontrollers for on board sensing or control of electromechanical devices, 4) computer-aided design (CAD), sometimes used in conjunction with programs for additive manufacturing, 5) LabVIEW, and 6) numerical methods and simulations. University websites generally had adequate information about course requirements and sufficient course descriptions to categorize the computing courses, but additional internet resources were also used. The paper reports on computing requirements at all 118 currently accredited biomedical engineering and bioengineering programs. The most prevalent computing skill is MATLAB, which is required by at least 70% of BME programs. About half of that number require a course in an object-oriented programming language. CAD courses are required by 41% of BME programs, and modeling and simulation by 42%. Other categories of computer knowledge are less prevalent. Limitations of these data for understanding computing in BME programs are discussed.
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