Delores M. Etter

Delores M. Etter
Delores M. Etter

Biography

A pioneer in the field of computer education for engineers, Delores M. Etter’s groundbreaking vision has produced some of the most influential educational works that have transformed and improved undergraduate engineering education in the fields of computers and programming. Etter has written more than a dozen textbooks that have helped educate hundreds of thousands of students worldwide. A unique characteristic of her textbooks is the focus on a consistent problem-solving methodology beyond just writing code. She refined her initial approach with feedback from hundreds of students over several years into a problem-solving technique based on five steps. Step 1 is to carefully describe the problem to be solved, because sometimes we start to solve a problem before we fully understand it. Step 2 is to define the input and the output to the problem. Step 3 is to work a simple problem by hand, since, if you can't do a simple problem by hand or with a calculator, you aren't ready to start writing a computer program. Step 4 is to develop an algorithm for the solution and convert it into a computer program (always start with a flowchart or pseudocode, even for simple problems). Step 5 is to test the program carefully (start with the solution you hand-worked in Step 3 and then move on to testing it with a variety of inputs, including invalid inputs). This five-step process is defined at the beginning of each of Etter’s textbooks, and it is consistently used for every complete example throughout her texts. She has demonstrated that the technique works for computer languages ranging from MATLAB to Fortran to C++. New editions of her textbooks have been translated into different languages including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Italian, benefitting students around the world.

An IEEE Life Fellow and member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, Etter is a Professor Emeritus with the Department of Electrical Engineering at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, USA.