East Lansing, Michigan
July 26, 2020
July 26, 2020
July 28, 2020
First-year engineering students recently had an opportunity to participate in a service learning project with potential for global reach. In response to a United Nations Development Programme Sustainable Development Goal for zero hunger, first-year engineering students were tasked with designing and building a solar-powered food dehydrator that could be built on location with minimal resources other than the primary building materials and some basic tools. The project was targeted for implementation in regions of emerging development including areas with chronic widespread hunger and, simultaneously, lacking in material resources and infrastructure - including access to electrical power. In these regions, farming is the single largest source of income and jobs. Hence, in practice, food dehydration makes it possible to extend the period for which freshly grown food can be safely prepared and stored for later consumption when food sources are more scarce. Starting from a previous design, several new design features were implemented. Most significantly, for a similar interior volume the redesigned dehydrator used walls that were 1/2 the thickness –as compared to the previous design– to enclose the interior space. Thus, along with using less material the overall weight was reduced by nearly 29%. In the previous design, testing on a sunny 91 °F summer afternoon revealed that the internal air temperature Tint was approximately 6-7 °F below the minimum recommended temperature for dehydration of fruits and vegetables (i.e., 120 °F ≤ Tint ≤ 140 °F for fruits and vegetables). Under similar test conditions, the internal air temperature for the new design exceeded the minimum recommended temperature; i.e., Tint = 122 °F for the redesigned dehydrator on a sunny 91 °F day. Since the intent of the project was to introduce the dehydrator into regions of sub-Saharan Africa where average temperatures in the hottest months can exceed 103 °F, efficient designs can therefore extend periods of the day –and of the season– during which the dehydrator can be used to safely process food.
Littman, A. L. E., & Malecki, A. J., & McAllister, E. P., & Collins, M. A., & Michael, R., & Gee, D. (2020, July), Addressing Global Food Security through First-Year Engineering Service Learning Projects Paper presented at 2020 First-Year Engineering Experience, East Lansing, Michigan. https://peer.asee.org/35753
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