Service learning projects associated with food availability, literacy, and habitat construction are just a few of the many service opportunities available to first-year students. Recent first-year engineering students have had the opportunity to participate in a project with greater potential for global reach. In response to the United Nations Development Programme Sustainable Development Goal for zero hunger, first-year engineering students were tasked with designing and building a solar-powered food dehydrator that could be built on location with minimal resources other than the primary building materials. The actual design here was implemented at one-third scale. The project was targeted for implementation in regions of emerging development including areas with chronic widespread hunger and, simultaneously, lacking in material resources and infrastructure –including access to electrical power. In practice, using a food dehydrator makes it possible to extend the period for which fresh food can be safely prepared and stored for later consumption when food sources are scarcer. The design is powered by solar energy, and by merging the energy collecting and dehydrating chambers into the same volume, a compact design is achieved. Sunlight enters the drying chamber via a roof that is covered with semi-transparent plastic sheeting. Incident radiation striking the walls of the dehydrator also contributes to the solar energy input. Air circulation through the unit occurs via natural convection as the relatively dry outside air can enter the drying chamber through an adjustable height door and/or via several mesh covered holes located on the floor of the drying chamber. Subsequently, the warmer moisture-laden air exits through a mesh-covered roof vent. Testing of the dehydrator in early summer in the Northeastern United States on sunny and/or partly sunny days with outside air temperatures in the 88-91 oF range revealed that the internal air temperature will approach 115 oF.
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