Asee peer logo

Cocoa for ChemE: Using bulk chocolate manufacture as an introduction to chemical engineering

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Introductory Experiences in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.354.1 - 26.354.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Noelle K Comolli Villanova University

Download Paper |


Cocoa for ChemE: Using bulk chocolate manufacture as anintroduction to chemical engineering The freshman year at our small private university introduces many of thefundamentals in math and science, and an overview of different types of engineering. Theengineering overview is divided into four sections (each ½ a 15 week semester). The firstsection is general to all students, and establishes some basic vocabulary and engineeringconcepts. The next two sections, the students select from eight different “mini-projects”on topics such as Artificial Kidney Design, Biomass Conversion to Fuels and Absorptionof Wastewater Contaminants. These projects are designed to be project-based multi-disciplinary designs that introduce some basic engineering concepts as well as guide thestudents to which type of engineering they prefer to study. The final section of the courseis then a discipline specific introductory course. Each department has chosen a differentapproach to this section, from teaching a broad overview using a seminar approach, tofocusing on teaching specific software necessary for future courses. The chemicalengineering department decided to keep with the theme of project-based learning andintroduce different unit operations through a fun process example that was simple enoughfor the students to follow. The processes needed to be easy chemistry, as well assomething that required inexpensive and safe materials to have students work with. Theprocess chosen was the production of bulk chocolate and confection making. Since this university is located within driving distance of Hershey, the instructorwas able to take advantage of learning “chocolate 101”, and seeking process tips, for alead chocolate engineering at the Hershey Company. The course consists of 14 lecturetime slots of 75 minutes each, which were divided into a mix of lectures and labs for theteams to complete. The students are divided into teams of four, with the aid of a surveyon that they must keep for the entire course. Each team must create their ownuniversity themed chocolate treat, starting with the basic ingredients (as basic as theF.D.A. and US customs allows) - 100% cacao bars and their choice of sweeteners(different sugars) and added fats (milk fats). In order to complete this project, the classstarts with a history of chemical engineering and what is meant by “unit operations”. Itthen goes into chocolate production, how to control cacao bean fermentation (with asimple yeast fermentation lab since cacao cannot be obtained) how to measure viscosity(why chocolate is non-Newtonian, and how additives can change it tested in a lab), howto control heat transfer and crystallization, steady state versus unsteady state processes,ethics & sustainable sourcing (we are at a Fair Trade university), statistics (with a labsorting colors/flavors of jelly beans), and process safety and controls (quality control onhardness and flavor lab). Analysis of the student’s understanding of what chemical engineering actually ispre and post the course, as well as their understanding of the basic concepts (unitoperations) that will be introduced in further detail throughout their curriculum is beingcompleted using pre and post course survey’s and final project presentation results.

Comolli, N. K. (2015, June), Cocoa for ChemE: Using bulk chocolate manufacture as an introduction to chemical engineering Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23693

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015