Mathematica Outside the Lab: Transferring Classroom Material onto the World Wide Web
The Internet has greatly expanded over the last decade, yet there are few options for people wishing to create interactive Web pages that can perform computations and neatly format mathematical expressions. Many educators wish to make classroom labs and exercises available online, without hindering students with more code than necessary. In addition to educators, many companies (such as Analytic Cycling) have a need to include interactive calculators on their Web pages. However, current mathematical tools are lacking in one or more areas. Common problems with current mathematical tools include the following: • Verbose and non-intuitive code • Lack of supporting software • Little or no computational ability • Little or no formatting capabilities After analyzing a variety of available options, the decision was made to use Wolfram Research’s -webMathematica to demonstrate the viability of converting a typical classroom lab into an interactive online experience. Once the webMathematica software was installed, it was used to create a beam analysis Web page. The Web page takes a variety of inputs from the user and then solves a differential equation, thus analyzing the beam. The output includes graphs and equations for displacement, rotation, moment, and shear. webMathematica is not only capable of performing complex computations with a minimal amount of code, it also provides a variety of formatting options. The developer can choose to have the results displayed as images or plain text, depending on the intent of the Web page. It is concluded that webMathematica has a very feasible niche in the Carroll College community, but that resources will need to be allotted before webMathematica can be used on a wide-scale basis. A faster Web server is needed to handle the traffic generated when several people attempt to access the server simultaneously. In addition to the funds needed to purchase the new server, staffing time will be required to install, configure, and maintain the new server and the webMathematica software.