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Thermodynamics for Citizenship: Entrepreneurial Engineering through Project-based Learning

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Incorporating the Community into the Classroom

Tagged Division

Biological and Agricultural Engineering

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Paper Authors


Ann D. Christy P.E. Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Ann D. Christy, PE, is a professor of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering and a professor of Engineering Education at the Ohio State University (OSU). She earned both her B.S. in agricultural engineering and M.S. in biomedical engineering at OSU, and her Ph.D. in environmental engineering at Clemson University. She worked for an engineering consulting firm before entering academia and continues to collaborate with the consulting industry. She has taught courses in bioenergy, biological engineering, capstone design, HVAC, thermodynamics, waste management, professional development, and engineering teaching. Her research interests include energy, the environment, and engineering education. She is assistant dean for teaching and learning in the College of Engineering. She is a second-generation woman engineer.

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Tara Gupte Wilson Ohio State University

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Tara Wilson is a second/third year undergraduate student of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering at The Ohio State University (OSU). She worked in a chemical engineering laboratory for four semesters studying separation of human red blood cells from whole blood. For the past four semesters, she has worked as a teaching associate for OSU’s fundamentals of engineering honors course- a first year, introductory course required for all honors engineering student. She also volunteers at Mount Carmel West Hospital in the pre-op/post-op department, the Dublin food pantry, and Sandlot Children’s Sports Camp.

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Owen J. Meehl Ohio State University

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Masters student at The Ohio state University in the Department of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering.

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Many undergraduate programs in biological and agricultural (BAE) engineering feature service learning opportunities, most frequently in first-year (cornerstone) and senior (capstone) design courses. Given that project based learning (PBL) is one of the known high impact teaching methods, there is potential benefit in exploring how PBL can be used in the second and third years of undergraduate BAE curricula, which are usually dominated by more theoretically focused engineering science courses. This paper describes one effort to introduce an social entrepreneurship engineering project into a 3rd year Thermodynamics course with the goal for the students to apply their newly developed thermodynamics skills in a real world setting, while developing an entrepreneurial engineering mindset and making a difference in peoples’ lives.

The context for the project is food insecurity. One problem at the local foodbank's mobile produce markets is that clients stand in in the summer heat for hours waiting in line. Volunteers also experience heat stress helping pass out the food. Food is delivered via refrigerator truck, but once unloaded, often into an empty blacktopped parking lot, it can be a challenge to keep produce and the occasional perishable items at proper holding temperatures for the four to five hour duration of the food distribution event. A solution is needed to keep people and produce cool. Stakeholders include clients, volunteers, the property owner, nearby property owners, the foodbank, and donors. Students discover the needs of these multiple stakeholders and propose multiple cooling device designs, while developing an entrepreneurial engineering mindset and making a difference in peoples’ lives. This project includes six deliverables spread over one academic term:

1. Concept map exploring connections between energy and (a.) poverty, (b.) food production, processing, and distribution, and (c.) the environment (group assignment, each group picks one of the options) 2. Preliminary documentation of clients’ needs, characteristics, and perspectives. Includes discussion board participation, interview results, on-line and in-person research (individual assignment) 3. Preliminary decision matrix memo documenting 6 different user perspectives (individual assignment) 4. Jigsaw assignment where team representatives investigate different cooling technologies and report back to their teams, (e.g., Refrigeration vapor-compression system, Evaporative cooling system, Thermo-acoustic cooling, and other creative designs) (group assignment) 5. Conceptual design memo documenting multiple different designs to meet needs and create value (group assignment) 6. Final decision matrix poster of one user perspective using 3 designs selected by team from their individual memos (group gallery walk, stakeholder randomly assigned)

The paper also provides a preliminary assessment of the project based on reflections by participating students, instructors, and community volunteers over two years.

Christy, A. D., & Wilson, T. G., & Meehl, O. J. (2019, June), Thermodynamics for Citizenship: Entrepreneurial Engineering through Project-based Learning Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33437

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