Peanut butter, cake frosting, pretzels, and graham crackers.
No, those aren't the ingredients for Ben and Jerry's latest ice cream flavor--they're just some of the materials that groups of middle and high school students from the Terre Haute, Ind., area used in building "vehicles" for the fourth annual Edible Engineering Contest.
Teams of three to four participants from different schools had one hour to design, build, and race a vehicle made entirely of specified foods.
Like soapbox-derby competitors, the contestants rolled or slid their contraptions down an inclined cafeteria table toward the finish line.
"Peanut butter was predominantly the color of the night," said Dale Long, the associate director of communications at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, the contest's sponsor.
But the tournament itself wasn't the entire story. At the end of the race, the teams had to eat their masterpieces.
"It wasn't great to look at, but they had to at least take a bite out of it," Mr. Long said.
The contest is part of the private professional college's Explore Engineering program, which is designed to get pupils excited about math and science.
Although it's not a recruiting program, Mr. Long says he hopes the contest opens the door for students to consider a career in engineering.
The group of about 90 students meets twice a month to do different types of hands-on projects, such as learning how to make "slime" in the chemistry lab or building a cradle for an egg to protect it in a 20-foot fall.
Professors of civil and electrical engineering from the institute judged entries on appearance, creativity, and ability to roll.
No prizes were given, but entries were awarded first, second, and third places.
The point is to "try to show the kids that science and engineering is fun," Mr. Long said. "For middle and high schools kids, that is a very important message to get across."
Vol. 18, Issue 8, Page 3Published in Print: October 21, 1998, as Take Note