June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.314.1 - 12.314.13
BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING SIMULATION USING VISUAL BASIC MACROS IN MICROSOFT EXCEL
Biomedical engineering analyses are often more complex than typically found in other engineering disciplines due to the inherent variation and uncertainty associated with living systems. Attempting to find the optimum solution to complex problems almost always is done using numerical analysis techniques, such as finite element or finite difference solutions.
Educationally, distance learning classes offer unique challenges to teaching of numerical analysis for engineers. While it is very common to use programs such as MATLAB for teaching numerical analysis, licensing this type of program is expensive and therefore not always available at the distance learning site. Using more conventional programming languages such as C or FORTRAN are also not as useful for distance learning for the same reason that compliers are expensive and not generally accessible to industrial distance learning sites and freeware compilers are not always robust enough for class work where time is limited. The need for a robust programming platform for industrial partners at distance learning sites is critical to avoid unnecessary learning curves. This is where using Microsoft Excel has a distinct advantage over other programming platforms as a tool for teaching numerical analysis. First of all, Excel is familiar. Secondly, Excel is ubiquitous. Lastly, Excel is capable of programming using Visual BASIC, for which the learning curve is not excessive as long as an individual has had a structured programming course.
For a reasonably complete course in numerical analysis, topics such as the solution of linear systems, non-linear systems, curve fitting, numerical integration, and solutions to ordinary and partial differential equations are usual topics. In order to create a course that is interesting and relevant to biomedical engineering students, having projects that are based on bioengineering problems is necessary. Fortunately, there are numerous problems that can be addressed which are well-posed.
Finding a textbook can be somewhat challenging since most numerical analysis books are written for MATLAB or C. Most of the Excel textbooks are not well-suited to a formal numerical analysis class because they are written to address typical spreadsheet usage rather than customization by macros . We ultimately settled on using a newly published book entitled, Numerical Analysis for Biomedical Engineers  even though it was written for MATLAB. In this case, MATLAB script could be treated as pseudo-code and easily ported to Visual BASIC in Excel.
II. Learning Objectives and Outcomes
The numerical engineering class was designed for juniors to first year graduate students. The class is designed to be delivered both in a distance and local classroom setting since approximately 25 percent of the class is made up of engineers obtaining their Master’s degree off-site. To pique student interest, all numerical lab exercises and homework were derived from
Griffin, L., & Crockett, R. (2007, June), Biomedical Engineering Simulation Using Visual Basic Macros In Microsoft Excel Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2839
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