Virtual Experiments in Food Processing
Based on the extensive use of the first edition of "Virtual Experiments in Food Processing" in teaching food engineering at institutions around the world, we have prepared the second edition and the accompanying CD. This volume draws on results from over 40 years of research on selected computer applications in food processing to develop educational materials suitable for teaching. Twenty seven virtual experiments have been prepared that may be conducted using the software presented in the CD. The accompanying text provides detailed procedures required to conduct a given virtual experiment. These experiments may be used to augment existing laboratory courses, or as contents of a stand-alone virtual laboratory course in the food science curriculum.
The topics selected for virtual experiments represent major food processes, and in each case an experiment is designed with following components:
First, a collection of multimedia materials including photographs, schematics and animations of process equipment are presented to view industrial practice and laboratory procedures relevant to the experiment. This allows a student to become visually familiar with the industrial practice and experimental procedures used in a laboratory.
The second component involves a process simulation that uses advanced mathematical models to predict physical, chemical or microbiological changes in the food due to the process. These mathematical models have been extensively validated with experimental data in published literature. Therefore, the predictions of the food processes are considered to be highly reliable. The user is shielded from the complexity of the models, because of the consistent user-friendly input/output procedures that have been developed for each virtual experiment.
The third component relates to critical thinking skills required in data analysis. Although the simulation programs may be enhanced to do all the analysis, this would minimize student's learning. Therefore, from each virtual experiment, a student obtains results in the form of spreadsheets. Students are then asked to analyze the data by making required plots, derive important parameters, conduct statistical analysis, and discuss key observations. This part is similar to what is normally done with data obtained from a real-life laboratory experiment.
The fourth component is report writing. Online links to over 60 industrial web sites are provided. These links are included for students to conduct research for data analysis and report writing. Discussion questions are included to prompt students to make key observations while conducting experiments. Another feature in the CD is MyJournal, an electronic text file, where a student may keep notes as the experiments are being conducted. This text file is saved on the student's computer and may be used later in preparing the written report.
Instructors from over 100 institutions around the world have used these virtual experiments (using first edition) in teaching students enrolled in courses in food processing and engineering. These laboratories have allowed the students to take full advantage of the vast computational power of the modern personal computers and to improve their problem solving skills.
R. Paul Singh