Engineering students build a better barbecue smoker

Alvin Powell in the Harvard Gazette:

ScreenHunter_1187 May. 08 23.44Professor Kevin “Kit” Parker set 16 students in his “Engineering Sciences 96” class to a real-world test of teamwork, technical skill, and dedication this semester, assigning them the 14-week task of building a better barbecue smoker.

Along the way, they had to decode the arcane process of smoking meat, applying science to a traditional Southern art form with the aim of simplifying it for the novice and updating it for the 21st century. They had a real-world client in Williams-Sonoma, the company that sponsored their efforts; real-world competition in their experimental control, a high-end smoker called the “Big Green Egg”; and the real world itself to contend with, in the form of snowstorms and subzero temperatures for their Saturday smoking sessions.

“I was eating it last night as it came off the smoker, and it was fantastic,” said Patrick Connolly, Williams-Sonoma executive vice president and chief marketing officer, who was at an end-of-semester barbecue Monday where the culinary results were presented.

Connolly was among several dozen guests, students, faculty, and staff at the barbecue, held just outside Harvard’s Maxwell-Dworkin building. The barbecue followed an hour-long student presentation of the scientific results of the project in nearby Pierce Hall.

More here.