Fourteen Harford County high school students spent the spring of their junior years not only learning about the science behind food production, but also applying it in the real world by designing flavors of ice cream that were produced by a local dairy and are on sale each Friday through the end of the month.
"Food science in general is something that isn't too well known by the general public, but it's something that has a huge impact on the food that we eat every day," Tim Andon, business development manager at TIC Gums Inc., said.
TIC Gums, which has been owned by Andon's family for four generations, is "a global leader in advanced texture and stabilization solutions for the food industry," according to a company press release on the five-week TIC Gums Ice Cream University.
The students spent Saturdays in April and May working with a number of academic and food industry representatives at the company's Texture Innovation Center in White Marsh to learn about the scientific principles behind manufacturing ice cream.
Those principles included "emulsions, osmosis, specific gravity, freezing point depression, overrun calculation, ice crystal formation and statistical know-how for tracking and maintaining quality," according to a press release from Harford County Public Schools.
The students were divided into four teams and each designed a flavor for a contest in which the winning team's flavor would be produced and sold at Broom's Bloom Dairy of Bel Air.
The students who participated included Matthew Burton of Fallston High School, Peyton Cox of Bel Air High School, Dylan Donley of Bel Air, Steven Duty of Havre de Grace High School, Laura Eller of North Harford High School, Graeme Fenton of Patterson Mill High School, Ivette Huertas of Havre de Grace, Alejandra Perez of Bel Air, Anil Jajistar of Joppatowne High School, Whitney LaRoche of Bel Air, Genevie Mayo and Michael Redman of Joppatowne, Elissa Sulin of Fallston and Shelby Tittle of Bel Air.
Judging took place May 11; the four flavors were Crunchy Caramel Chaos, Graham Canyon, Very Berry Flapjacks and Crispy Apple Pie.
The winning flavor, Crunchy Caramel Chaos, went on sale June 7 at Broom's Bloom's Fountain Green Road farm and store and has been followed by a different student flavor each Friday this month.
Broom's Bloom owner Kate Dallam said organizers of the program decided to produce and sell all of the flavors because "the kids were so enthusiastic" about the process of making ice cream.
She called Crunchy Caramel Chaos "a great flavor, because that's kind of a new trend . . . the salted caramel trend."
Dallam said the caramel flavor was "wildly popular" when it went on sale.
"For a new ice cream, it sold about as fast as I've seen any new flavor sell," she said.
The Ice Cream University is the result of a collaboration between Cornell University and TIC Gums, and is modeled on the Ithaca, N.Y., school's introductory food science courses. Andon is a 2006 graduate of Cornell, where he studied food science.
"We chose ice cream as a vehicle to do so, given that, who doesn't like ice cream?" Andon said of developing interest in food science.
Andon, lives in Perry Hall, but grew up in Bel Air. He and many of his family members who live in Harford County are regular customers at Broom's Bloom. TIC Gums relocated to Harford County's Riverside business community in the 1980s, before opening its White Marsh facility three years ago.
"We felt, what better way to get community involvement and get the students excited, and then have their actual ice cream be produced and be on sale to their parents and friends and other community folks," Andon said.
Broom's Bloom and Cornell University were major sponsors of the program, along with David Michael and Company, a Philadelphia-based flavor manufacturer, Star Kay White of Congers, N.Y., which makes ice cream ingredients, and Harford County Public Schools.
Andon said the Harford County school system was not charged for the Ice Cream University courses, and all materials were donated.
Company and school officials plan to hold the program next year. Interested students and parents can contact Andon at 410-273-7300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We were really trying to focus on the content areas of science, math, foods and business," Sue Garrett, supervisor of career programs and art for Harford County Public Schools, said.
She said content area supervisors promoted the Ice Cream University idea to teachers in those various disciplines, who then promoted it to the students.
"We really were looking for students who were interested in moving on and majoring in food science or in the marketing end of food science," Garrett explained.
She said students benefited academically and socially from the program.
"The students were exposed to a lot of content experts, people that do this for a living, and I think they really enjoyed the fact that they were coming together in teams with other 11th graders in the county," Garrett said. "That networking opportunity was definitely something I think was a positive outcome, and I think they truly were excited to see their efforts go from start to finish."