Experiential learning can take on many forms. Two years ago, Professor Andrew Sowinski started working with fourth year engineering students on preliminary designs for a microbrewery and craft distillery on campus. Fast forward to today, the Craft Lab and its upcoming limited batch ale is a passion project for the professor and his students. Applying chemical engineering knowledge to the art of craft brewing is no longer just an idea, but a soon to be reality.
Concepts like fluid mechanics, heat transfer, and biochemical engineering; technical skills like measuring pH, temperature, carbonation, and density; and courses like Reactions, Unit Operations and Process Synthesis—what if you could put everything that you learn in practice in a state-of-the-art microbrewery as a part of your studies?
The Craft Lab is an innovative project that breaks the mould of conventional learning and provides an out-of-the-box, hands-on experiential opportunity for chemical engineering students. It allows students to combine chemical engineering knowledge and entrepreneurship while exercising soft skills like teamwork, problem solving, and multidisciplinary collaboration. “A student-led brewery is a dream when it comes to giving students an opportunity to gain communication skills, hands on experience and most importantly, room to make mistakes and learn from each other,” shares Jade Breau, a fourth-year chemical engineering student currently working on the project.
Although the project is still its infancy, the enthusiasm felt by every team member is the key to its current success. Professor Sowinski is motivated by the students’ eagerness to learn. “I dream of the Craft Lab to be completely student operated, where they are there to learn and to engage with the vibrant craft community.”
Professor Sowinski and his students do not currently have a functional space to operate on campus. For this first batch, they worked with Flora Hall, a brewery in downtown Ottawa. The goal however is to do all the brewing and testing on campus, which is why, for this year’s Giving Tuesday, the Faculty of Engineering and the project team are trying to raise money for the construction of a Craft Lab on campus.
The money raised will allow the students to complete research, apply their knowledge, and brew the next batch of ale in one location. This new Craft Lab would offer a more hands-on experience in a new facility, while ensuring safety and sustainable practices. For Leila Kusmic, another fourth-year chemical engineering student, “this level of hands-on experience is something [she] wouldn’t trade for the world.”
Donate to the CraftLab between November 23 and November 30, 2021 and the Faculty of Engineering, with support from the Engineering Endowment Fund, will be matching donations up to $25,000.
We will be hosting a panel with Professors Andrew Sowinski, his students and Flora Hall on November 29, 2021. Get all the details about this exciting project firsthand. Join us for uOttawa Innovates on November 29th at 3:00 p.m.
We also encourage you to follow their Instagram account @uottawa_nanobrew to know about our upcoming projects and follow-ups!