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General Card #1322
PBL in Thermodynamics: Outdoor cooling for food bank mobile operations
Updated: 10/14/2022 11:46 AM by Michael Johnson
Reviewed: 10/14/2022 1:43 PM by Becky Benishek
Students discover stakeholders needs and develop cooling designs to apply thermodynamic skills in partnership with their local food bank.
This is a semester-long series of instructional modules that add real-world project-based learning (PBL) to a third-year undergraduate thermodynamics course. One problem at the local food bank's mobile produce markets is that clients and fresh foods stand in in the summer heat for hours during neighborhood distribution events. A solution is needed to keep people and produce cool. Stakeholders include clients, volunteers, the property owner, nearby property owners, the Food Bank, and donors. Students discover the needs of these multiple stakeholders and design cooling options that apply their thermodynamics skills in a community setting, while developing an entrepreneurial engineering mindset and making a difference in peoples’ lives. This project includes six deliverables spread over one academic term:

Deliverable #1 (group assignment): Exploring Thermodynamics (Energy) & Issues of Food Insecurity
Concept map (a graphical tool for organizing and presenting data) that identifies central topics in boxes, and uses connecting lines with phrases to show concept relationships. In teams, students explore the issue of energy and food insecurity by building a concept map on one of the following:
– Energy and Poverty
– Energy and Food/ Agriculture (food production, food processing, and/or food distribution)
– Energy and Environment / Ecosystem

Deliverable #2 (individual assignment): Identifying the needs and motivations of stakeholders
Memo presenting and discussing clients’ needs, characteristics, and perspectives for at least six different categories of users:
• Clients
• Volunteers
• Local Food Bank
• Property owner
• Nearby property owners and retailers
• Donors
Memo must include references and citations of sources of information (e.g., web pages, interviews, conversations, on-site visits)

Extra Credit Deliverable (individual assignment): On-site visit to a food bank mobile operation:
Volunteer at a local Foodbank produce market (or similar), describe, and photo-document your experience

Deliverable #3 (group assignment): Developing design criteria based on stakeholder needs
Memo presenting and discussing a Preliminary Decision Matrix with design criteria and weighting factors for the six different stakeholder groups

Deliverable #4 (group assignment): Jigsaw exploration and presentation of a variety of cooling technologies that teams might consider for  design development.

Deliverable #5 (group assignment): Designing cooling systems for food bank mobile operations
Memo presenting 2 to X (where x= number of team members) different conceptual designs / invention disclosures by following this template:
• TITLE (Clear descriptive title for your design / invention):
• TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION (One paragraph description of your design, its advantages, characteristics, and potential for application at a MidOhio Foodbank mobile produce market):
• SCHEMATIC DIAGRAM (Label all states and indicate design temperatures, pressures, and enthalpies for each state, label all Qs and Ws):
• THERMODYNAMIC DIAGRAM (e.g., T-s diagram or psychrometric chart sketch):
• ENGINEERING MODEL (Assumptions and equations)
• ANALYSIS, including citing any tables or psychrometric charts used
• INVENTION CONCEPTION (Where and when was the invention first conceived, and who was involved):

Deliverable #6 (group assignment): Selection of the best design proposal for a given stakeholder group
Gallery Walk of Final Decision Matrix Posters: Each team will focus on a single user (randomly assigned by instructor) and rate their proposed design options (from Deliverable #4), selecting their best design proposal based on their stakeholder-specific decision matrix.
  • Demonstrate constant curiosity about our changing world
  • Integrate information from many sources to gain insight
Creating Value
  • Identify unexpected opportunities to create extraordinary value
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