Cool Roof

Eugene Mahmoud
Mt. San Antonio College, Physics and Engineering
Author Profile


This project is a hands-on, open-ended, collaborative assessment of students' abilities to collect numerical data, and develop mathematical models of naturally occurring phenomena. Students design physical structures, define the constraints of the experiments, collect data, and report results for the structures assigned to each of them. In this activity, they also exhibit 2D and 3D plots, as well as extrapolation.

Learning Goals

Students will learn to appropriately import and format externally collected data. MATLAB is used to plot and extrapolate mathematical models of temperature versus time and in space. Additionally, temperature data is used to calculate, plot and extrapolate mathematical models of energy, power, and cost. Mathematical models are analyzed using linear regression techniques. Students will additionally demonstrate technical writing, creativity, and critical thinking.

Context for Use

Mt. San Antonio College is a community college in Southern California. The target population for the course (Programming for Engineers) are, primarily, 1st-year and 2nd-year engineering transfer students. The class also serves mathematics and science students interested in MATLAB and numerical modeling. The prerequisite for the course is a semester of calculus. The class size is 24 and is offered in 3 hour blocks, 2 times a week in an integrated lecture/laboratory setting.
The project described is typically completed in two weeks, with substantial class time being used for the design and construction of the structures and the data collection. Students complete their individual papers outside of class. Students will primarily use scissors and tape to fabricate their structures. Vernier hardware and software interfaces are our primary tool for the collection of numerical data. This activity is utilized as an assessment (in lieu of a midterm exam). The primary challenge in facilitating this project in another setting would be acquiring materials for the structures (2x4s, wood screws, etc.) and data collection prior to the beginning of the term.
At this point in the course, students are familiar with the MATLAB interface, mathematical operations, functions, 2D and 3D plotting, control structures, matrix algebra, symbolic mathematics, interpolation and curve fitting.

Description and Teaching Materials

Student Handout for Cool Roof Project. (Acrobat (PDF) 322kB Aug16 18)

Facilitation Notes for the Instructor (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 921kB Dec21 18)

grading_rubric.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 153kB Dec21 18)

Grading Rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 16kB Aug16 18)

Project 2 Overview.docx (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 16kB Dec21 18)

ieee_standard_document_template.docx (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 474kB Dec21 18)

Exemplar NOAA weather station data (Comma Separated Values 1013kB Dec21 18)

Teaching Notes and Tips

If you are using Logger Pro software to record data for long periods of time make sure that your have a accessible power source for your hardware, and that you appropriately setup up your remote data collection. Students should be familiar with sinusoidal expressions, linear regression, uncertainty, error propagation and piece-wise functions.


Please see the suggested rubric in the attached document.

References and Resources

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website. Provides access to local weather data.