Four Idaho 4th graders walked into the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry last month with what looked like a clunker.
In the National Lunch Box Derby--a competition for children who not only like to play with their food but also watch it zoom down a straight-away--it is hard to get worked up over a cucumber with apples for wheels and a plum on top.
But what nobody seemed to realize is the way a footlong seedless cucumber chassis can glide, the way four well-chosen Granny Smith apples can handle the transition from steep grade to level terrain, and the way a plum can just go along for the ride.
The students who make it to the finals are not only masters of speed, but also accomplished artisans with the Veg-O-Matic.
After spending long hours at the produce stand picking just the right fresh makings, the Idaho pit crew walked away with a win and a world record. The Weippe Elementary School dragster went 36 feet and 5 inches.
Students and teachers at the school said it was their philosophy, more than their design, that propelled them to victory. With "long and heavy" as a motto, they won their regional competition with a racer made of a carrot, apples, and a kiwi.
The competition required at least three fruits or vegetables and provided three skewers, four toothpicks, and one rubber band. Idaho teachers Mindy Pollock and Sandy Lawrence said they couldn't be more pleased with the way the project turned out.
"We've always done a lot of work on healthy snacks," Ms. Pollock said.
For the teenagers who hang out at the Miller Community Center in Seattle, afternoons are not for fun and games. They're for helping out your hungry peers.
The local students, who spend their after-school hours at the community center, were worried about homeless youths in the neighborhood who often missed meals. So the teenagers skipped the center's recreational offerings and got to work.
The group set up food drives and gathered enough grub to fill hundreds of "Teen Paks" with snacks and juice for homeless teenagers. The group got a helping hand--and a pat on the back--from area service agencies, and the packages are making their way to shelters and churches.
The service-oriented teenagers haven't put together full meals to go, but they are keeping the four food groups in mind. They plan to talk to a nutritionist before assembling their next packages.
--Lonnie Harp & Joanna Richardson