Numerical Algebraic Modeling of Earth's Atmosphere using MSExcel

This is a partially developed activity description. It is included in the collection because it contains ideas useful for teaching even though it is incomplete.

Initial Publication Date: February 26, 2013

Summary

This activity is designed to introduce students to atmospheric modeling using established algebraic models. MSExcel is purposely chosen as the programming and visualization tool because of its availability, ease of use and flexibility. During the programming phase, students are required to develop and execute logic constructs to implement the algebraic equations. They are then required to visualize the raw data obtained from these algebraic equations using MSExcel plotting options. This simulation data can then be compared against data from weather balloons stations.

Keywords: Mathematical Modeling, Algorithm Development, Scientific Programming, Data Visualization and Analysis, High School STEM activity

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Learning Goals

This exercise is intended to be an introduction to the concepts of numerical modeling, simulation, visualization, data analysis, and model verification. On completion of this exercise, students will have the opportunity to develop from fundamental algebraic equations a numerical model that simulates the temperature, pressure, and density variations in the Earth's atmosphere. They are also required to verify their model with real world data obtained from weather stations and discuss the trends in the temperature, pressure and density. Students are required to submit a formal report and presentation at the end of the exercise. Programming using MSExcel can be used as a gateway to programming in languages such as C, C++ and Fortran90/95.

Context for Use

The activity is intended to merge classroom lectures with a real world activity. Often students have expressed interest in 'how is this concept/lecture' related to the real world. Instructors can use this exercise to introduce students to computer modeling, simulation, data analysis, and model verification. The skills obtained from this activity can be transferred to every field in STEM education and can serve students at all levels throughout their academic career.

These models have been used to obtain freestream data for models used in upper level undergraduate and graduate Aircraft design and Aircraft propulsion courses.

Description and Teaching Materials

Materials required for the successful execution are;

Teaching Notes and Tips

In order to cultivate students' creativity, I have found it useful to discuss a barebones version of the required program. It is then left up to the student/student group to develop their solution.

Assessment

In addition to the conventional reports and examinations, students are encouraged to defend their work orally and discuss their findings.