and the Entrepreneurial Mindset

Vegetables and meats

Food and the Entrepreneurial Mindset: 

Or, Lunchtime Camouflage

by Aaron Sakulich, Associate Professor, Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

It would seem that I get up much earlier than my students. When I teach from 11 a.m. - 12 p.m., my stomach starts to rumble by the end of class, and all of my explanations, metaphors, and more start to feature food: Torsion goes from a description of what happens when a shaft has a moment applied to it to a discussion of how Twizzlers are made; hoop stress becomes a discussion of why hot dogs always split longitudinally and not circumferentially on the grill. 

Sometimes it works, and sometimes . . . not so much. 

By contrast, my students are fine: They get up around 10:00 a.m. and have a nice breakfast. They don't feel the hunger pangs I do at 11 a.m. But when I teach in the afternoon, their attention and energy begin to wane. 

How do I keep my hungry students (and myself) engaged in our work? 

It occurred to me that perhaps by including activities that were explicitly food-related, it might smooth over the inclusion of otherwise incongruous anecdotes - lunchtime camouflage, if you will. Engineering Unleashed has plenty of cards that could work!

How Do Microwave Ovens Work? How Have They Changed Our Lives?


Students connect real life experiences with course content and build curiosity about the technical materials!

This module is designed for a junior course in electrical engineering focusing on electromagnetic fields. 

  • Investigate how microwave ovens use electromagnetic energy to heat food
  • Explore how these ovens originated from an accidental discovery to become an incredible modern "time machine"

Duration: One class period.

Creating a Daily Ration

Food rationing

Set teams of students to designing a daily ration using donated food items! 

This module is part of a second/third year engineering/science course, Linear Algebra. 

The project involves the practical aspect of translating between the concrete problem/solution and the matrix problem/solution, the technical aspect of using matrices to solve the problem, and other aspects such as writing a report, distribution of the food, and how it affects society. 

Duration: The project has 3 components that can be used independently and modified among classroom time and written/presentation report time.

PBL in Thermodynamics: Outdoor Cooling for Food Bank Mobile Operations

Mobile Food Bank

The local food bank's mobile produce markets have a problem: Clients and fresh foods stand in the summer heat for hours! 

These instructional modules add real-world project-based learning to a third-year undergraduate thermodynamics course. 

Students discover the needs of multiple stakeholders and design cooling options that apply their thermodynamics skills in a community setting, while developing an entrepreneurial mindset and making a difference in peoples’ lives. 

Duration: Semester-long series.

Is Your Food Safe in the Refrigerator?


Have students identify a problem by themselves in everyday life, and think about an engineering solution! 

This activity can be implemented at any level of curriculum. 

With a handheld thermometer, each student or student pair will measure objects in one's refrigerator, compare their observation with the regulation/requirement, and identify a problem. Students will invent an idea to solve the problem and compare one's solution with other existing technologies and invention.

Eating Our Way to a Better World: An Elective Capstone Project on the Three C's

Eating Our Way

Ask students what problem in the world they they want to fix (within the constraint of being connected to course material)! 

This is a final project for an upper-level elective. It is designed for a food engineering course, but adaptable to any elective.

Students propose a new product, process, or service that uses what they've learned in class / their undergraduate careers while leveraging the 3C's (curiosity, connections, and creating value) as a framework for their efforts. 

Duration: 3-4 weeks with in-class time only for feedback and presentations.

Meet the Author

Aaron Sakulich

Aaron Sakulich, Associate Professor, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Aaron's research focuses on developing new, more durable materials for use in infrastructure, which will lead to a lowered maintenance burden, improved user safety, and a reduced environmental impact. He is also very much involved in WPI's off-campus projects system, running sites in Panama City and Reykjavik. Aaron has served as an Engineering Unleashed Community Catalyst.

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