June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Computers in Education
11.1144.1 - 11.1144.14
Spreadsheet Instruction Within A First Year Chemical Engineering Course Abstract
This paper reports upon our experiences with incorporating formal instruction in spreadsheet software (Microsoft Excel) in our department’s introductory chemical engineering course. Spreadsheet instruction was conducted in the department’s computer laboratory with all the students able to run Excel during the class session. Instruction started with spreadsheet basics and over the course of the semester introduced a number of numerical techniques that can be implemented in a spreadsheet environment.
The use of “real-world” chemical engineering examples to provide instruction in various mathematical techniques and their implementation in the Excel environment is described. A third-order expression for heat capacity was used to illustrate the concept of trial-and-error searches. Chemical reactor design equations were given to the first year students along with a graphical interpretation of the equations; the trapezoidal rule was used within Excel in order to compute reactor volumes. Excel’s iteration capabilities were illustrated both by simulations of chemical processing systems with a recycle stream and by two-dimensional heat conduction simulations.
In 2003 the Chemical Engineering Department of Tuskegee University engaged in a self-study to examine the status of computer science education within the curriculum1. One of the recommendations of that study was that formal instruction in spreadsheet software (Microsoft Excel) be incorporated in the department’s introductory chemical engineering course (CENG 110). That recommendation was adopted and this paper reports on our experiences to date.
The roster in CENG 110 is usually composed almost entirely of first year students; the course has no pre-requisites and is actually open to all majors (although during the period reported on all CENG 110 students were chemical engineers). The course meets once a week for a two hour session. Typically the Excel portion of class was taught during the second hour of class. Spreadsheet instruction was conducted in the department’s computer laboratory with all the students able to run Excel during the class session.
Some aspects of Excel had previously been taught by one of the authors (WJ) to select first year engineering students. These first year students were part of Tuskegee’s FASTREC (Freshman Accelerated Startup and Training for Retention in Engineering Curricula) program, an 8 week summer program in which incoming T.U. freshmen take introductory engineering and mathematics courses. FASTREC students typically are aerospace, chemical, electrical or mechanical engineering majors. When teaching Excel as part of CENG 110, however, a concerted effort was made to incorporate examples and problems specific to chemical engineering.
Josephson, W., & Krishnagopalan, J., & Vahdat, N. (2006, June), Spreadsheet Instruction Within A First Year Chemical Engineering Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. https://peer.asee.org/1061
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