Science and Technology of What We Eat

Center for Natural Health Sciences
1/20/2015 08:30 AM
1/20/2015 01:40 PM

High school students from around the region have been invited to participate in a STEM day at Elms College to highlight opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

The topic of the day will be "Food: The Science and Technology of What We Eat." Food production involves a lot more than agriculture, and this event will show students how STEM efforts affect the foods we eat every day.

Stem Day Workshops

Students will learn about fermentation and how it can be used to produce common foods such as yogurt, bread and pickles. Actual stages of fermentation and the action of the yeast and/or bacteria will be observed. Students will then carry out an experiment to test the activity of yeast under various conditions by manipulating pH, temperature and or sugar content and explore ways in which food scientists have modified the process of fermentation in certain foods.

Students are invited to bring a food item to be tested (include processed food containing corn or soy). In the lab students will then ascertain through PCR whether the food has a genetic modification transgene. Most of the prep will be completed in the lab. The final results will then be emailed to the school. Students will be able to see the results of an experiment already going on that will show the 2nd half of the experiment that they will not be able to see on their own samples.   

Using combustion and simple calorimetry students will assess the caloric content of different foods.

Computer Information Technology (Graphic Design)
Students will create a digital painting. Students are invited to bring a flash drive with a simple photo of a person with food. We will provide some images if needed. With Photoshop we will then demonstrate and work with the Mixer Brush to realistically mix paint, blending brush and canvas colors. The new digitally painted image will then be printed allowing them to take a copy home. 

Computer Information Technology (Programming)
Students will design and program their own app to compute the number of calories that are needed in a day. 

Students will learn about the relationship between the acid level (in units of pH) in your mouth and the time (in minutes) after you eat something that contains sugar. We will then discuss the rising cost of bacon which will be modeled using linear piece-wise functions. Finally the Logistic Growth Model to describe the spread of an infectious virus within a given population will be described.  And there will be a brief discussion of "Typhoid Mary". 

Students will calculate their personal ‘power rating’ and look into the energy provided by certain foods and convert that to work.

How does your tongue sense the four tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty? Are there really only four tastes?  Then how is it that our sense of taste is actually so complex? Students will explore these questions then conduct a taste test, including the effect of scent on taste, sugar substitutes and the wondrous “Miracle Berry”.