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Creating Spreadsheet Software As A Team To Solve A Complex Laboratory Experiment

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Mechanical ET Design & Capstone

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.354.1 - 9.354.6



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Paper Authors

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Michael Kozak

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

Session 3649

Creating Spreadsheet Software as a Team to Solve a Complex Laboratory Experiment

Michael J Kozak

Purdue University School of Technology


This paper describes the author’s experience using a student-team approach to creating a multi-layered spreadsheet to analyze a complex lab experiment. Each student was given a portion of the lab to solve by creating a sheet in a workbook. Each student’s sheet is then hyperlinked to the other sheets resulting in a workbook. The workbook directs subsequent lab students through the steps to input the lab data required to process the equations used in the spreadsheets to complete the necessary laboratory analysis calculations. The team creating the workbook is the same team that initially performed the lab experiment. The creation of the spreadsheet helps the students understand the steps that are required to solve the calculations in the lab experiment. The lab experiment involves forced air cooling of a heated cylindrical fin. Thirteen analysis steps were required to process the data gathered in the experiment. The resulting spreadsheet helps students that will later perform the experiment process the lab data. The spreadsheet included an explanation of why each step was necessary and what the assumptions are for using each equation in the spreadsheets. The spreadsheet was created during a two hour lab session with all lab students present and working together to foster the ability to work in a team. Each student was required to understand how their portion related to the other students’ work. This further enhanced this team building exercise. The spreadsheet development also helped fulfill a requirement to use computer skills as a component of the class. The lab was comprised of sophomore mechanical engineering technology students.


The author had developed a lab for a sophomore level class involving heat transfer. The lab analysis was fairly complex and involved thirteen steps and calculations. Students were usually able to perform the analysis by following written instructions but were not adequately grasping the concepts involved. A second exposure to the lab analysis seemed necessary to reinforce the concepts and discuss the solution steps and their relevance.

One of the learning objectives of the class required students to use computer software in class exercises. The author felt that the students could create a software package that would help following lab groups complete the lab analysis. The lab instructor might then be able to focus on

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

Kozak, M. (2004, June), Creating Spreadsheet Software As A Team To Solve A Complex Laboratory Experiment Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13526

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