Johns Hopkins Students Engineer the Perfect Toast

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They have homework assignments that require going to Six Flags and riding roller coasters. They study alchemy. Let’s face it, Johns Hopkins is doing a pretty rad job of making stodgy science classes fun and interactive, and in the process causing students in tedious Engineering 101 classes to seethe with jealousy. Case in point:  the mechanical engineering class that ends with a giant potluck… featuring foods the students cooked themselves, using the robotics skills they learned in class.

Noah Cowan, who teaches the Robot Sensors and Actuators course, has his students build DIY cooking devices using sensors, actuators, and a quantitative display. “I thought focusing on cooking applications could be a fun way for students to demonstrate proficiency with course material,” Cowan told the Hopkins Gazette. “I wanted the end result to be something concrete, and I love cooking. I also love eating.”

Judging from the video, the task included measuring temperature precisely, along with lots of wires and sensors and heating elements. After visiting with Jerry Pellegrino (former owner of Corks in Federal Hill and current “consulting chef” to Waterfront Kitchen) and learning about molecular gastronomy, many student teams decided to try and make a sous vide cooker — a fancy piece of kitchen equipment that can cost  hundreds of dollars. Another team hacked a toaster to create more precise temperature control. Other groups tackled backed apples or Platonic s’mores — all of which were on the menu at the course’s final session — a potluck.



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