Edible Car Contest Project Nominated for Bellwether Award

Illinois Valley Community College has been nominated for a prestigious Bellwether Award, a national award which recognizes outstanding and innovative community college programs.

IVCC’s nomination for the 2012 award is for the edible car contests, which a team of IVCC faculty have been offering throughout the college district to engage students of all ages in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The project is entitled Edible Car Contests Give Students a Taste of STEM.

IVCC offered its first edible car contest in 2006 as a celebration of Engineering Week.

"We knew that designing vehicles from food would challenge students to solve problems and be creative, skills that are critical in engineering," said Dorene Perez, the Program Coordinator of Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Engineering and one of the contest organizers.

Perez added, "As we planned that first contest, we didn’t see how much potential the contests have to get students excited about an unlimited number of other subjects."

Since that first contest, Perez and a team consisting of Jim Gibson, Rose Marie Lynch, and Sue Caley Opsal, have offered edible car contests to second-graders through college-age students. Gibson is the Program Coordinator of Electronics; Lynch is a communications instructor; and Caley Opsal is a biology instructor.

With support from a National Science Foundation grant, the IVCC team has written a "how to" handbook and has given workshops at a number of national conferences to encourage and assist teachers to organize contests as a fun way to provide hands-on experience for classroom content.

"People of all ages like playing with food," Perez said. "So we capitalize on that interest."

This is the second nomination IVCC has received for the Bellwether Award. Last year, IVCC was nominated for the Making Industry Meaningful In College (MIMIC) project.

The MIMIC project places students from engineering design, electronics and business into teams which design, prototype, manufacture and sell products.

Bellwether Award finalists will be recognized at the Community College Futures Assembly in Orlando, Fla. Jan. 28 –21, 2012. The Assembly is sponsored by the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Florida.