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A Matlab Program For Teaching Convective Heat Transfer

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.47.1 - 6.47.14



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Paper Authors

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Mike Lu

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Mark Smith

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Craig Somerton

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1433

A MATLAB Program for Teaching Convective Heat Transfer

Craig W. Somerton, Mark Smith, Mike Lu Department of Mechanical Engineering, Michigan State University


Certainly, a key element to students’ learning in engineering is the practice gained in working problems. The challenge for the instructor is in providing good problems that adequately challenge the student, but that do not go stale. A MATLAB program has been developed that will generate an infinite number of different convective heat transfer problems, prompt the student for an answer, check the answer, return the correct answer to the student, and track the student’s performance. All interactions between the student and the program are through graphical user interfaces that have been developed using the guide function in MATLAB. The program begins by randomly generating a convective heat transfer problem. This is accomplished by using the Nusselt number classification scheme of Somerton et al [1], the following conditions are randomly decided:

Forced or Natural Convection External or Internal Flow Geometry Flow Orientation (for forced convection) or Surface Orientation (for natural convection)

Values of the physical parameters, such as temperatures and dimensions are also assigned using a randomizer. This approach involves more than just different numbers for the same problem statement. Different problems are generated depending on the randomly generated convective conditions.

With the problem presented to the student, it is expected that the student will work the problem out by hand and enter a numerical solution for the heat transfer rate. The student then clicks a button on the graphical user interface to indicate that they are ready for their solution to be checked. A convective solver is then run and a comparison is made between the solver’s solution and the student’s solution. If the comparison is within a certain tolerance the student’s answer is deemed correct. The student’s performance is tracked and they are provided with a count of the number of right answers to the total number of problems worked.

Though the problems generated by the program are still quite simple, they can still provide students with practice in honing their basic convective heat transfer problem solving skills. This is not a tool intended to help students build their modeling skills.

This paper continues with the details of the program development. This is followed by a demonstration of the program. Finally, conclusions and future directions for the program are presented.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Lu, M., & Smith, M., & Somerton, C. (2001, June), A Matlab Program For Teaching Convective Heat Transfer Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9535

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