STEM Students Play With Their Food

Kerry L. Meyers has an office filled to the brim with marshmallows, Airheads, Oreos — both vanilla and chocolate — various sizes of pretzel sticks and other different food products.

Meyers, director of first year engineering at Youngstown State University, laughs when she walks into her office.

“It’s for my class, Engineering 1550-Engineering Concepts. It’s a first year engineering course,” she said. “There are about 225 students taking it, that’s why there’s so much.”

Meyers’ class is constructing small cars made entirely of edible food products. The cars have to be made of things that humans can consume, although Meyers’ students have tried to bend the rules a little.

“Some of the students will ask if the edible products had to be edible by humans and if they could use dog food, for example,” she said. “I’ve had to make sure everyone knew, real human food only.”

The edible car project has been going on for two years and has brought in many different kinds and style of car. Anything is possible, just as long as the cars follow three simple rules: the car must be able to roll twice down the pre-made ramp and travel one foot past the end of the ramp without falling apart, must have rolling wheels — cannot slide down the ramp — and be made entirely of food.

A lot of strategy goes into designing the cars and making sure that they can meet the desired criteria. Many of the cars feature a similar makeup, Meyers said.

“A lot of times people will pick a form of produce for the body, which works well; like a cucumber, a potato, a banana. So if you pick axels, like pretzels, moisture will ruin your car if you assemble it too soon,” she said. “They have to consider the elements, the challenges, and how to adapt to them.”

There are a few students who decide to test the limits of the edible car assignment, deciding to make their cars out of a certain food group, make it extremely small or push the envelope in other different creative ways.

“The meat car attracted a lot of notice from people … they used all meat products. It was expensive and different, but it worked incredibly poorly. It fell apart. Others use very small cars with LifeSavers for wheels,” Meyers said. “There’s an infinite amount of solutions that are viable, and that’s what makes this interesting.”

The cars will be sent down the ramp at various times on Oct. 2 in the lobby of Moser Hall, and all are welcome to attend.