Asee peer logo

Using Excel to Implement the Finite Difference Method for 2-D Heat Transfer in a Mechanical Engineering Technology Course

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

New Course Development Concepts in ET I

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1328.1 - 24.1328.18



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Robert Edwards Pennsylvania State University, Erie

visit author page

Bob Edwards is a Lecturer of Engineering at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, teaching in the Mechanical Engineering Technology department. He has a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology and a Masters in Engineering from Gannon University. His primary area of interest is in the thermal sciences. He teaches thermodynamics, heat transfer and a thermal sciences course for Electrical Engineering Technology students. He has also taught a wide array of other courses including statics, dynamics, economics and basic electrical engineering for Mechanical Engineering Technology students.

visit author page


Michael Lobaugh Pennsylvania State University, Erie

visit author page

Michael Lobaugh,
Michael Lobaugh is a Lecturer in Engineering at Pennsylvania State University, Erie. He received his B.S. in M.E. at the University of Illinois in 1986 and his M.S. in Engineering Management at the University of Massachusetts in 1997.
Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, he worked at Lord Corporation and Babcock & Wilcox in various engineering and management roles. He has experience teaching Computer-graphics, Quality Control, Mfg Processes, Production Design, Lean Mfg, Electrical circuits, and Mechatronics.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Using Excel to Implement the Finite Difference Method for 2-D Heat Transfer in a Mechanical Engineering Technology CourseAbstract:Multi-dimensional heat transfer problems can be approached in a number of ways.Sometimes an analytical approach using the Laplace equation to describe the problem canbe used. This involves finding the solution of differential equations, which may bereasonable for Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) students. However, thesestudents are not always particularly proficient in using this approach. Also, the analysiscan get quite complex depending on boundary conditions, often involving advancedmathematics using Bessel functions, Fourier series and other special functions. Graphicalmethods might be used, but their usefulness extends primarily to discussions about therelationships between isotherms and heat flow paths. Shape factors and otherapproximations can also be useful in certain instances. None of these seem to provide anespecially good approach for MET students.A more practical approach for these students is the use of numerical methods. The finitedifference method seems to provide a good approach for MET students. Using thismethod a student can model fairly complex two-dimensional problems with a variety ofboundary conditions using a simple spreadsheet.This paper presents information on how this method is used at XXX in a first course inheat transfer for MET students. The method is used to aid in presenting the theory, aswell as for a laboratory exercise. The basic equations for a variety of node types areincluded, as well as equation modifications that are used to account for several thermalloading and boundary conditions. The lectures are reinforced with homework practiceproblems before the more involved lab exercise. Finally, the lab exercise is included.The exercise is designed to give the students practice using the method.

Edwards, R., & Lobaugh, M. (2014, June), Using Excel to Implement the Finite Difference Method for 2-D Heat Transfer in a Mechanical Engineering Technology Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23261

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015