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Excel In Me: Packaging Add Ins And Providing On Line Help

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.601.1 - 14.601.21



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Paper Authors

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Joseph Chappell University of Alabama

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Keith Woodbury University of Alabama

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Robert Taylor University of Alabama

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

Excel in ME: Packaging Add-ins and Providing Online Help Abstract

Microsoft Excel is a ubiquitous software tool that provides an excellent electronic format for engineering computation and organization of information. This paper reports on the second year of an NSF CCLI Phase I project to implement a sequence of Excel modules for use in the Thermal Mechanical Engineering Curriculum.

Several modules were developed in the first year of the program including several for Heat Transfer. These modules have been integrated and significant online help modules developed to assist the user. Additional integration occurred in the second year of the NSF project with module development assisting in Energy Systems Design engineering calculations. The method for developing these modules mimicked the approach used in development of the Heat Transfer modules. Similar online help was developed for the Energy Systems Design modules. Details of the help compiler process, which are not widely documented, are described. Example problems illustrating sound engineering workbook solution techniques and access to the help files are given.


In the mechanical engineering curriculum, consistent organization remains a key to successful teaching and learning. The mission of presenting students with the most straightforward and accommodating software learning environment requires great organization and tedious planning. These organization and support methods must also be readily available to offer optimal “user- friendliness.” Although several Microsoft Excel-based modules for use in the mechanical engineering curriculum had been developed and made readily-available via download over the internet, a re-evaluation of the project status determined that a more consistent organization format was needed. Also, the ability to offer more assistance to the user beyond the user-defined function descriptions was clearly desired. Through discovery of many of the seemingly unlimited features in Microsoft Excel, it was determined that the developed macros could be easily rearranged. Also, internet research proved that a compiled help file could be created and applied to the Excel-based modules in order to offer more “user-help.” In the interests of providing maximum classroom time for applying the learned material of the course, the previously developed Excel-based modules were rearranged and paired with compiled “user- help” files in turn allowing students to solve more complex problems in the thermal mechanical engineering curriculum.

Prior status of Modules

The prior organization of the developed modules resulted from the order in which they were created and subsequently tested in their “beta” phase. Since module development mostly occurred in conjunction with the teaching of a course, modules were created as separate entities for each specific topic in the course. As these modules developed individually, they were then made available to users enrolled in the courses where they could be evaluated for further development.

Chappell, J., & Woodbury, K., & Taylor, R. (2009, June), Excel In Me: Packaging Add Ins And Providing On Line Help Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5781

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