Lego League youngsters learn about food safety science at URI

KINGSTON, R.I- November 9, 2011- Communication, scientific inquiry, and teamwork were just a few of the skills sharpened by hundreds of students, ranging from ages 9 through 16 from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire who participated in the First Lego League Rhode Island recently at the University of Rhode Island.

“This summer, Mary Johnson coordinator of First Lego League of Rhode Island approached us to host their 2011 kickoff event. We were pleased to work with Mary in organizing this event,” says Martha Patnoad, University of Rhode Island professor of nutrition and food sciences. “We viewed this a wonderful opportunity and clearly within the goals of the Cooperative Extension Food Safety Education outreach program.”

“We would like to thank the wonderful speakers who gave up their Saturday morning to share their knowledge and experiences with the middle school students and their team coaches who attended the event,” says Lori Pivarnik, coordinator of Food Safety Outreach and Research of the Cooperative Extension Food Safety Education Program.

Among the 250 participants bouncing from room to room, one particular team aimed to be Rhode Island’s next budding scientists. The Hyper-Green Oreos of Lincoln were pumped and ready to hear from the experts on this year’s theme of food safety.

They were introduced to food science experts such as Ernest Julian, chief of the office of food protection for the Rhode Island Department of Health, Albert Kausch a URI professor of cell and molecular biology, Mary Yebba from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, William Bigelow from Blount Fine Foods, Susan Wallace from Johnson and Wales University, Jesse Rodrigues, Jr. from Rhode Island Nurseries, Michelle Richardson from U.S Army Natick Soldier Research and Development Center, Lynda Hoxie from Dave’s Marketplace, P. Christopher Ellis a retiree from the state Department of Health, and Michael Vidal and Jim Lusignan of Nordson Engineered Fluid Dispensing Company.

The event was held in the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences, URI’s newest science building. Students watched demonstrations from Lego League mentors, high school students from the First Tech Challenge, and even a hot air balloon demonstration.

The Hyper-Green Oreos team members beamed with excitement as they shared memories and ideas for this year’s First Lego League competition tournament.

One student Ean Dreszek, 13, expressed great enthusiasm for the program saying, “It gets you interested in the sciences, working with friends, and meeting new people. It isn’t really a competition. Well, it’s friendly competition.”

For this year’s tournament on Jan. 14 the Hyper-Green Oreos will be focusing on the safety of milk; how do we get milk? When and why does it spoil? Can the consumer measure bacteria in milk? The competition involves extensive research on the topic, following robotic missions and finally demonstrating teamwork. Approximately 40 teams across Rhode Island will compete at Roger Williams University

Pictured above

The Hyper Green Oreos of Lincoln, RI watch a Lego robot demonstration at the First Lego League event at URI.

Ean Dreszek, 13, of Lincoln Rhode Island enjoys a Lego robot demonstration on food safety.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photos by Michael Salerno Photography