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The main objective of this article is to show how designing a solar system using the f-chart method. For easy understanding, the f-chart method has been implemented in a spreadsheet as a tool to facilitate teaching and it has been applied to a case of study.

There is a need for distance engineering education especially with the implantation of the European Higher Education Area where students need to take an active role in the learning process and which aims to encourage the use of computer tools and problem-based learning.

Spreadsheets are computer tools in which students are more motivated, they are generic and simple to learn and use. An illustration of the simplicity of this method has been demonstrated in this work analyzing a case of study.

It has been designed an active methodology to implement the various phases necessary in the process of designing a domestic hot water solar system. First, it has been provided to students with the information needed to use the spreadsheet, subsequently, they have formed working groups which have used interactive educational techniques based on collaborative work. Finally, students reflected on the results of the experience and tested their level of knowledge alternately exerting roles of teacher and student. The activity has encouraged the participation and involvement of students and has facilitated learning of the subject.

The learning experience discussed in this work has been developed within the context of the subject ‘Thermal engineering II' given in the third year of the degree of Mechanical Engineering in the second half of 2014/15.