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Introduction To Problem Solving Using A Monte Carlo Spreadsheet Simulation
At [the institution], data collection, analysis, and problem solving is taught as part of the technical project management course for junior and senior engineering students. Students are taught how to frame a problem, collect and analyze data, report analysis results to aid in decision making. Many real world problems have such a broad scope or are so complicated that they resist a purely analytical solution. One technique for analyzing these complex problems is simulation. This paper describes the efforts to introduce students to spreadsheet-based Monte Carlo simulation modeling to support problem solving. Spreadsheet-based simulation has come into relatively widespread use as a methodology supporting studies for a broad range of problem types encountered in technical project management. Students can master spread-sheet-based simulation especially easily, and can expand their skill set by being taught to use real world data sets such as the traffic flow data obtained from the [State] Department of Transportation Traffic Polling and Analysis System (TPAS). The instruction introduces the students to spreadsheet modeling with excel software and the fundamental aspects of data collection, analysis, and simulation modeling. The instruction aims to provide students with modeling skills to support problem solving. Students benefit from learning to use simulation modeling using excel, which is familiar and widely available. Students can master spread-sheet-based Monte Carlo simulation especially easily, and can expand their skill set importantly by doing so. This paper describes the use of spreadsheet-based Monte Carlo simulation and briefly explores the underlying methodology using Excel to support the instruction.