Sunday, November 2, 2014

History of air conditioning

Willis H. Carrier (photo from ASME webiste)
In my last post, I wrote about the website of ASME - the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. It's a good source of material for many areas of engineering, but now that I'm teaching new groups of mechanical engineering students, I thought it would be a good idea to look through this website for specific texts that would be both interesting and relevant for them.

The article I've chosen is Global Cooling: The History of Air Conditioning.

The article: 

In the article it states, "In 2000, air conditioning/refrigeration was named among the 10 greatest mechanical engineering achievements of the 20th century, according to a survey of ASME members."

Students can brainstorm what they think the other 9 achievements are. (Answers: automobile, the Apollo mission to the Moon, power generation, agricultural mechanization, aeroplane (sic), the mass production of integrated circuits, CAD and CAM, bioengineering, and codes and standards.)

The text is a good example for students to use as a model of an essay explaining what the achievement is and why it is "great."

The organization is very clear: there's an introduction mentioning what it is and what it does; then a short note of the historical roots of the achievement; then "the first modern air conditioner" - who invented it, when, why and how; then how today's air conditioners have been updated and improved; and finally, plans for future innovations for the air conditioner. The end of the text (conclusion) summarizes the impact of the air conditioner: how it has changed "the quality of life in America and the industrialized world" and "played a major role in migration patterns and economic development in the U.S., allowing millions of people to live and work and establish businesses in locations known for their hot and steamy climates."

Students can brainstorm further impacts of air conditioning and refrigeration on society, the economy and technology. (See also the reference to the Infographic at the end of this post.) They could also use this text as a model for writing their own text about one of the other achievements in mechanical engineering of the 20th century that they brainstormed.

Students can also be guided to focus on the short technical descriptions of the various developments in innovations of air conditioning. For example:
  • Borrowing from the concepts of mechanical refrigeration established in earlier years, Carrier’s system sent air through coils filled with cold water, cooling the air while at the same time removing moisture to control room humidity.
  • In 1933, the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America developed an air conditioner using a belt-driven condensing unit and associated blower, mechanical controls, and evaporator coil, and this device became the model in the growing U.S. marketplace for air-cooling systems.
  • Today’s air conditioners, while operating on the same fundamental science as Carrier’s 1933 system, incorporate advancements in vapor compression, diagnostics and controls, electronic sensors, materials, and energy efficiency. Carrier’s new top-of-the line central air conditioner, the Infinity, is far different than the founder’s early models, featuring advanced components including a two-stage scroll compressor for quieter, more energy-efficient performance.
  • In the next wave of technology development, Ingersoll Rand and other manufacturers will advance smart technologies to interface their systems with the national electric grid, allowing units to be regulated according to geography and changing weather conditions. Grid interoperability could push air-conditioning research down the pathway of fully variable speed systems, further reducing energy consumption.
Language work

The language of the text itself is also useful for focused work on collocations, adverbs, relative clauses, compound adjectives, linking/transition words, and a variety of verb tenses.

Collocations with energy / efficiency:
  • energy efficiency
  • energy-efficient performance
  • energy efficiency standards
  • minimum efficiency standards
  • reduce energy consumption
  • Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER)
  • energy cost savings
  • reduce energy usage
  • reducing home energy consumption
  • energy-efficient home
Adverb-verb collocations (and one adverb-adjective collocation):
  • a manually powered rotary fan
  • systems have progressively increased
  • adjust home temperatures remotely by computer
  • manufacturers have successfully increased
  • the pathway of fully variable speed systems
Relative clauses (both restrictive and non-restrictive):
  • These comfort units that homeowners activate ...
  • ... has roots in second century China, where an inventor named ...
  • ... Benjamin Franklin, who in 1758 conducted experiments ...
  • ... Willis Haviland Carrier, a skilled engineer who began experimenting ...
  • ... at Ingersoll Rand, Davidson, NC, which markets the popular ...
  • ... control kits that automate the operation ...
Use of hyphens for compound adjectives: 
  • a belt-driven condensing unit
  • air-cooling systems
  • new top-of-the-line central air conditioner
  • a two-stage scroll compressor
  • more energy-efficient performance
  • air-conditioning systems
  • web-enabled cell phones
  • high-end models
  • microprocessor-based diagnostic and control kits
  • air-flow system
  • off-site computers
  • e-mail alerts
  • energy-efficient home
Linking/transition words:
  • as
  • according to
  • also 
  • while at the same time
  • the same ... as
  • different than
  • including
  • particularly
  • like
  • in addition to
  • further aiding
  • further reducing
  • while
  • even
Verb tenses used:
  • future with will
  • present simple
  • past simple
  • present progressive
  • present perfect progressive
  • present perfect
  • (use of gerunds)
The sentences with these tenses are good examples of the use of the tense in order to explain to students why these tenses are used.

For an interesting, colorful Infographic ("Air Conditioning Facts & History"), see the website of The Air Conditioning Company: 

The Infographic includes "Top 10 Fun Facts," which lists various other impacts of air conditioning.

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