Friday, April 24, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Students learn engineering through coffee

Coffee1W

UC Davis students enjoy the hands-on nature of the "Design of Coffee" lab course. UC Davis/Courtesy photo

By
From page A1 | January 31, 2014 |

From a latte with friends to an all-night study session, students likely drink as much coffee as anyone. But this winter, UC Davis students are getting a new insight into their favorite hot drink through two new courses that use the roasting, processing and brewing of coffee to teach the principles of chemical engineering.

“From green bean to cup, the process of making coffee is all engineering,” said Tonya Kuhl, professor of chemical engineering and materials science and of biomedical engineering, who is co-organizing the course with professor Bill Ristenpart of the department of chemical engineering and materials science.

On a recent morning, the lab class air was rich with freshly roasted beans as students made careful measurements of the roasting and brewing process.

“All the operations that chemical engineers learn about are in the coffee process,” Ristenpart said. “Fluidized beds, mass transfer, vapor/liquid equilibrium, thermodynamics.”

Kuhl and Ristenpart hope the classes will engage students, teach them some basic principles of engineering, and give them a clearer idea of the problems engineers work on and the techniques that they use to solve them.

“A lot of people don’t really know what engineers do. But brewing coffee is tangible to everyone,” Kuhl said.

At the start of winter quarter, “Design of Coffee,” a general education course open to all students, had a full enrollment of 300 students with more on the waiting list. A second course, aimed at undergraduates majoring in chemical engineering and materials science, had enrolled another 170 students. Both courses are heavily oriented around lab classes.

For an English major like Inez Kaminsky, “Design of Coffee” is a way to fulfill general education requirements in science.

“It teaches a way of thinking, rather than a profession,” she said.

“I need the engineering and science credit, and I really like coffee,” said Ilse Atkinson, a first-year student majoring in political science. “After two lectures, I feel like I’m getting a new appreciation of it. The entire process is much more complex than I realized.”

The coffee courses grew out of hallway conversations about a need for more engineering lab classes earlier in the curriculum, Kuhl said. Typically, engineering majors get lectures on engineering topics, but up until senior year their practical classes are in subjects like physics and chemistry. More specialized engineering labs do not begin until senior year.

“The problem was, how to have a hands-on lab experience in engineering that does not take much time?” Ristenpart said.

Kuhl and Ristenpart started with a first-year seminar in spring quarter 2013. First-year seminars are small-group courses, specifically for freshman students, intended to introduce them to a wide range of topics. After the success of that course, Ristenpart and Kuhl went ahead with planning a full undergraduate program.

Students begin their lab studies by dismantling a coffeemaker to figure out how it works, then experiment with different techniques in roasting and brewing, measuring the chemical and physical changes involved. The course will end with a tasting competition: the object being to make the best-tasting cup of coffee from the same basic ingredients while using the least energy.

“We don’t want it to be a, ‘this is the way you do it’ class,” Kuhl said. “We want them to try different things, different methods and have an experimental design experience.”

Setup for the course included renovating and refitting lab space, and was made possible by support from several donors, including Chevron Inc., Melita and Boyd’s Coffee, as well as individual donors. These include John Wasson, a 1984 UCD alumnus and current president and chief operating officer of ICF International.

— UC Davis News

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Water and power have a troubling interdependency

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    New design submitted for conference center

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Hostage deaths a reminder of risk of ‘deadly mistakes’

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Bob Dunning: Fairness is an afterthought for them

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

     
    Los Angeles march to commemorate Armenian killings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Got bikes? Donate ‘em!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Beginning tai chi classes start May 5

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    College Night set April 30 at DHS

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Walkers head out three times weekly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4Comments are off for this post

     
    Tour of co-ops precedes Sacramento conference

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    School board hears report on health services

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A5

    Learn basics of composting in Woodland

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    Mamajowali will perform at benefit house concert

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    Explorit: Celebrate International Astronomy Day

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    BeerFest expands to include cider

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

    Winkler Dinner raises funds for enology, viticulture activities

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    Raptor Center welcomes visitors at May 2 open house

    By Trina Wood | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Take a peek at region’s past at Tremont Mite Society’s social

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    Mapping where human action is causing earthquakes

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A9

    Hummingbird health: Appreciating the little things

    By Kat Kerlin | From Page: A12 | Gallery

     
    .

    Forum

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

     
    The fight for gender pay equity

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

     
    Thanks for supporting the arts

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Bike Swap another success

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    Drink is a tasteless insult

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    It’s a depressing beat

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    .

    Sports

    Aggie Spring Game environment will up the gridiron fun factor

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Rare DHS track loss still full of highlights

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Lehner talks about the UCD student-athlete experience

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Reeling Blue Devils stop skid against Sheldon

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    DYSA roundup: Lester, Osborne lead Storm over Dixon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Lady Demons’ fundraiser a smash hit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Pro baseball roundup: River Cats lose their fourth straight

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B12

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

     
    ‘Ex Machina': The perils of playing God

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    Ceramicist works will be featured at The Artery

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    Chamber expands Korean sister-city opportunities

    By Felicia Alvarez | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Car Care: Tips for buying your first ATV

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

    Subaru goes rear-wheel drive with sporty BRZ coupe

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B7 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, April 24, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B5