Heat Transfer Today

Educational Software for
Heat and Mass Transfer

General Background

The algorithms and interfaces for each module are uniquely tailored for the particular application – thus avoiding the frequently-steep learning curves associated with much more powerful, commercially available and often costly CFD packages. In most cases specific techniques were derived from the authors’ research, as well as from experience in graduate and undergraduate teaching. All modules were used extensively for the first time by some sixty university students taking undergraduate Heat and Mass Transfer during the Spring 1996 semester and then sixteen more times in the Spring 1997-2013 semesters. All modules have been enhanced continuously and extensively as a result of these experiences.

Many of the original Fortran programs were developed and used as lecture demonstrations in distance education courses in Computational Fluid Dynamics and Heat Transfer taught through the Virginia Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program.

Early Years in the Broadcast Studio

Then as facilities became available, they were used in a similar mode for a number of years in a projector-equipped, local classroom. The development of the graphical-user-interfaces during the 1995-96 academic year as part of the UVA Teaching + Technology Initiative made them appropriate for student use as well, both on their own, or as we use them, in a scheduled “studio” session. Students attend two 50-minute-long, traditional classes a week, but also have a two-hour working session in one of our computer classrooms.

Originally Watcom Fortran 77 was used for the intense numerical computations and for generation of the color plots, while a tailored Visual Basic executable was used for the user interface. Later all modules were ported to Visual Basic 6, allowing for much more interactivity than in the past. Now in 2021 all modules are written in VB 2013 and have been installed and tested in the “cloud.”

Typical scene in the “Studio” session

The development of the underlying computational routines, the user-interface, on-line help file, the supporting documentation, the student exercises, and in many cases a journal article is extremely time-consuming. Consequently the topics for modules were chosen with great care. Only fundamental subjects that cover at least ten pages in a typical textbook were selected. In several cases virtually all the concepts from a whole chapter in a graduate-level text can be illustrated using one module. In addition, several of the modules are sufficiently general that they may be used in a variety of related courses, both graduate and undergraduate, in mathematics, science and engineering.

A more detailed PowerPoint presentation detailing the evolution of this software and its application in instruction may be downloaded here.


The original development of the interfaces during the 1995-96 academic year was supported by a fellowship from the University of Virginia Teaching and Technology Initiative, a joint program of the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology and Communication and the Office of the Vice President and Provost. Gerald W. O'Leary of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering designed and implemented the VB-3 interfaces. No tax dollars went into the subsequent creation and maintenance of this software. If you find these materials useful, please consider a contribution to the Kiwanis Children's Fund: https://www.kiwanis.org/childrens-fund.

General References

Ribando, R.J., Heat Transfer Tools, McGraw-Hill, NY, 2002.

Ribando, R.J., Richards, L.G., and O’Leary,G.W., “A “Hands-On” Approach to Teaching Undergraduate Heat Transfer,” Symposium on Mechanical Engineering Education, Paper IMECE2004-61165, ASME IMECE ’04, Anaheim, CA, Nov. 14-19, 2004.

Ribando, R.J., Scott, T.C., Richards, L.G. and O’Leary, G.W., “Using Software with Visualization to Teach Heat Transfer Concepts,” Paper # 2002-1536, Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Montreal, Canada, June 16-19,2002.

Ribando, R.J., Scott, T.C., and O’Leary, G.W., “Application of the Studio Model to Teaching Heat Transfer,” Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Albuquerque, NM.

Ribando, R.J., Scott, T.C. and O’Leary, G.W., “Teaching Heat Transfer in a Studio Mode,” Session on Energy Systems Education, 1999 ASME IMECE, Nashville, TN, HTD – Vol. 364-4, Edited by L.C.Witte, Nov. 1999, pp. 397-407.

Ribando, R.J., “Teaching Modules for Heat Transfer,” Workshop on Advanced Technology for Engineering Education, Feb. 24-25, 1998, Peninsula Graduate Center, Hampton, VA. NASA/CP-1998-208442, Edited by A.K.Noor and J.B.Malone, pp. 239-259.

Ribando, R.J. and O’Leary, G.W., “Teaching Modules for Heat Transfer,” ASME Proceedings of the 32nd National Heat Transfer Conference, HTD-Vol.344, Volume 6, Innovations in Heat Transfer Education, pp. 75-82, August 1997.

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