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Integrating Spreadsheets Into An Introductory Materials Course

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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

Creative Ways to Present Basic Materials

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.771.1 - 9.771.11



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Paper Authors

author page

M.L. Meier

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

Section 3664

Integrating Spreadsheets into an Introductory Materials Course

Mike Meier

Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science University of California


We hardly have to encourage students to use the latest software for many of their course assignments, personal business, entertainment, and all the other things our computers can do for us these days. It is clear that they are not reluctant to jump in and teach themselves how to use these new tools. It seems, however, that this may not be the case for less trendy or entertaining software such as programming languages, databases, and spreadsheets, even when it can really help them in their studies. In the case of spreadsheets, few students in our department had ever used them in their engineering courses. This seemed surprising since spreadsheets are so easy to use, are ideal for performing routine calculations and plotting data, and a spreadsheet application has probably been on every personal computer they have ever used. Normally this would not cause any concern except that many of our students continued to do much of their work using handheld calculators and pencils and were still drawing their graphs by hand, while at the same time they’d never consider writing the text of their papers and laboratory reports without using a wordprocessor.

A critical and challenging part of an on-going project to develop spreadsheet modules for use in the materials science and engineering curriculum is finding the best way to introduce these into existing courses. This paper describes an effort to integrate spreadsheets into a sophomore-level introductory materials science course.

Why Spreadsheets?

While spreadsheets have been around for many years, dating back to the late 1970s and early 1980s when the availability of programs such as VisiCalc and Lotus 123 alone justified the purchases of the hardware, the engineering student and instructor today have many more options for mathematical and number-crunching software. TKSolver, Maple, MatLab, Mathematica, and others offer powerful modeling and equation-solving capabilities. FORTRAN and C++ are well known examples of programming languages that are widely used in modeling and numerical analyses and which are often taught in undergraduate courses. Spreadsheets, like word

Proceeding of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Meier, M. (2004, June), Integrating Spreadsheets Into An Introductory Materials Course Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13109

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