HOUSTON – Five Rice University seniors known as, Five Guys & Ribeyes, have designed and constructed a functional prototype seven-sensor meat thermometer for the students’ senior engineering design project called the meatmaster.
The innovative students are trying to make sure grill masters never under-cook or overcook their steaks again.
The idea for the new product came from one of the team’s faculty co-advisers, Gary Woods; as a grilling enthusiast.
Woods has had the idea for the thermometer for about 10 years.
He challenged the students to create a digital thermometer with multiple, closely placed sensors.
Innovative Barbecue Youth
The Five Guys team is made up of four mechanical engineering students — David Cooper, Michael Fleming, Will Firth, and Harry Sagel — and one electrical engineering student, Rico Marquez.
“We are using a food-safe multi-material sheath primarily made of plastic, but with horizontally placed gold-plated copper casings every quarter-inch,” Marquez said.
“Inside each of these casings, we have placed a small thermistor to measure the temperature.
The thermistors are wired to a printed circuit board and Arduino microcontroller, which displays the multiple temperatures on an LCD screen.
“When inserted into the meat, the array of sensors will provide a temperature profile throughout the depth of the steak.
This will enable error-free grilling,” he said.
How the meatmaster works
By using a multi-material sheath instead of solely stainless steel, the team eliminated any unwanted vertical heat flow along the length of the probe but still allows for fast heat conduction between the meat and sensor.
The probe was 3-D printed using PEEK plastic and holds thermistors enclosed in copper casings along the length of the probe.
Thermistors then provide fast, accurate, and discrete temperature readings.
Read more about acclimating your meat: https://smokinjsbarbeque.com/acclimate-good-steak/
Current meat thermometers have only one sensor, and it’s difficult to know where that sensor is within the probe, Marquez said.
That also makes it difficult to know where in the steak the sensor is taking the temperature reading.
So far, the team said the thermometer is working great, and they’ve received a lot of positive feedback at the demos they have given, including presentations at Rice’s annual George R. Brown Engineering Design Showcase, held in April.
Future looks bright
“A lot of people are interested in the project,” Marquez says.
“People would like to see us move forward with this and make it a consumer product that they can pick up at a local grilling store, and we really would like to do that.
“Since this was the first year of this project, it’s also possible more team members could be added here at Rice in the future to carry it on,” he said.
To that, Five Guys’ other faculty co-adviser, Gene Frantz, said one part of his involvement included asking questions of reality.
“I asked them, ‘What is this going to cost in volume production?’” Frantz said.
“In my role, I could explain the different rules of thumb of how you determine what it is going to cost and what it should cost based on market and distribution to high volume.”
Both Frantz and Woods think this could be a project-to-market product.
Woods, teaching capstone projects at Rice for seven years, says he is impressed with what the team has done.
“These guys have exceeded my expectations,” he said. “Rice students are really smart, and they’re very creative.
“They came up with ideas that I had never thought of for making this a more viable project. They took it and ran with it.”
“The whole idea of a senior project like this is so vital to preparing for the real world,” Frantz said.
“There were several times they would come to a meeting and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know this,’ and I’d tell them that’s a great lesson to learn.”
Article originally from Carolina Epicurean May 12, 2016