(23a) Incorporating Food Into The Chemical Engineering Curriculum

Authors: 
Salim, M., Tri-State University
Barr, C. J., University of Toledo


As a university in the Midwest where a large percentage of our graduates work in the food and consumer goods industry, our department has been incorporating food experiments into the sophomore and junior level laboratories. Since a majority of the college level laboratory experiments have quantitative results, we wanted to implement some experiments which have quantitative results as well as subjective results such as taste, appearance, and aroma.

Another factor in designing new subjective experiments had to do with the lack of statistical analysis in our current laboratory experiments. Feedback from our Industrial Advisory Board meetings has shown that a sound background in statistical analysis is a needed skill for the graduating seniors. We already teach a Numerical Methods class and are requiring our students to take Probability and Statistics. However, we noticed that we did not have many experiments which implemented statistics. As a department which prides itself with having experiments that coincide with all of the Chemical Engineering classes taken, we feel these new food-based experiments will add much needed ?real world? statistical applications into the labs.

Two food based experiments that have been developed by our department are a coffee experiment and a chocolate experiment. In the coffee experiment, students will explore the quantitative results by performing a two parameter statistical model based on the roasting time and the grind size. The subjective portion of the experiment will be an ?expert? taste panel of students and faculty who drink coffee on a regular basis.

Similarly, the chocolate experiment will have a two parameter statistical model as the quantitative result. However, this statistical model will be comprised of the cocoa to sugar ratio and the mold temperature of the chocolate. Once again, the students will present the final product to a taste panel for the subjective results of taste, texture, and appearance.

As a result of the new coffee and chocolate experiments, students will be better prepared for their future careers because of the ?real world? statistical applications and the new insights into subjective results. These new insights about subjective results will give students the understanding that sometimes quantitative specifications are not as important if consumers won't use the product. Moreover, it shows that not every consumer looks for the same things in a product.