Asee peer logo

"Lessons With Lunch" Using A Common Technology With A Global Impact To Address Technology And Data Literacy

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Technology Literacy for Engineering Students

Tagged Division

Technological Literacy Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.2.1 - 12.2.18



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Camille George University of St. Thomas

visit author page

Professor George, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in mechanical engineering at the University of St. Thomas. She teaches the core course in thermodynamics and maintains a strong interest in technology literacy and educating the general public. Professor George has prepared several innovative courses including a course specifically about fuel cells that mixed senior engineering students with students from other disciplines and adult learners (non-engineers). Professor George has also spearheaded several international service-learning projects in Haiti and Mali. These innovative projects included students from the department of Modern and Classical Languages, the communication studies department and the engineering program for an interdisciplinary year-long effort.

visit author page

author page

Elise Amel University of Saint Thomas

author page

Christopher Greene University of Saint Thomas

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

“Lessons with Lunch” Using a Common Technology with a Global Impact to Address Technology and Data Literacy


Refrigeration has impacted our society in fundamental ways. In the developed world, our food security is dependent on fresh produce being transported over large distances in refrigerated containers. Chilled vaccines, antibiotics and organs for transplants illustrate the inseparable relationship between modern medical practice and refrigeration. Air-conditioning has altered our architecture. Refrigeration has influenced our military practices easing the burden of desert warfare. Our modern society could not function without refrigeration, yet few people either understand the technology behind refrigeration or examine its long-term sustainability. In general, few people discuss the additional amount of electricity that would have to be generated to simply provide this technology to the four billion people in the world who currently have no access to it or what resources would be used to provide this extra power. Few people reflect on the production and management issues of modern-day man-made refrigerants; a massive global expansion of devices containing toxic substances should be approached prudently. This paper describes two hands-on activities that elucidate this common and influential technology. Both activities can be used in a standard, undergraduate engineering laboratory or in a technology literacy course that fulfills the common science with lab requirement in a liberal arts program. In one activity, laboratory refrigeration trainers, instrumented with thermocouples and pressure gages, are connected to laptop computers programmed with a graphical interface. Easily understandable graphics enable the visualization of the 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics. The required work input, the relationship of energy transfer through phase-change and the principals of heat transfer all come alive by manipulating discrete data into visual representations of the system components. Each refrigeration trainer has a different style and shape of evaporator which permits many different foods to be chilled during the course of the laboratory. Lunch becomes the metaphor for the role of technology in meeting the world’s food and energy needs. To sensitize the students to the technical challenges and limitations of working with systems using toxic substances, students braze and then leak-test tubing connections in a second activity. The paper describes these engaging activities, presents the details behind the data manipulation software and presents a survey used to assess the learning and attitudes of a group of future science and math elementary teachers.


Educators are increasingly aware of the importance of introducing contemporary and global issues in undergraduate curriculum. Liberal arts programs usually consider contemporary issues from many angles: social, political, ethical, organizational and personal. However, liberal arts courses rarely consider how engineering accomplishments affect society. One can argue that the average engineering major knows more about the humanities than the average humanities major knows about engineering. However, in our technology-driven society, everyone needs to know more about engineering, especially its limitations.1 Many engineering advances have had an

George, C., & Amel, E., & Greene, C. (2007, June), "Lessons With Lunch" Using A Common Technology With A Global Impact To Address Technology And Data Literacy Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2142

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: © 2007 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