May 30: Guelph Team Wins at OCE Discovery Connections 2011 Student Competition
A University of Guelph team of three has won first place at the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Discovery Connections Competition for their development of a no sodium added, low sugar chocolate milk.
"This is really big news for us," enthused CME Dean Christensen Hughes. "It's not often the case that a food product beats out engineering designs in such competitions."
Teams of science and business students in Prof. Melanie Lang's fourth-year "Interdisciplinary Product Development" class are tasked with developing a new product that will help solve a market, consumer or social issue. Developing products such as low sodium cheese and low sugar chocolate milk addresses the needs of health conscious consumers.
"For many primary school students," Prof. Lang explained, "chocolate milk is the only source of milk these students get and that concerns parents who worry about the amount of sugar in chocolate milk."
Sensory testing of the low sugar chocolate milk was conducted during the College Royal Open House Weekend in February. Approximately 680 samples of three chocolate milk products were prepared in advance. Data collected suggested that a 20% reduced sugar product could be replaced in schools and children would not notice the difference.
In its 7th year, this innovative course continues to give students the opportunity to engage in applied research that benefits the community and helps develop important and transferable skills. The course requires students to engage in primary and secondary research, develop a business plan, and understand issues surrounding intellectual property and confidentiality agreements. Students also learn to professionally present their ideas to industry sponsors and potential investors. Enrollment has been limited to 18-25 students, although plans are underway to make this a required course for Food Science students.
"It's a very entrepreneurial course," explained Prof. Lang. "We're pushing students outside their comfort zone. I've got accounting students working alongside science students in the lab developing cheese."
The project, developed by students Michael Lanteigne, in Accounting; Eric Martin, in Agricultural Business; and Aneta Rybak, in Food Science, was chosen top 15 out of 350 to compete at the finals. These 15 were separated into three groups: colleges, universities and those projects that were sponsored by the Ontario Power Authority. Guelph competed in the University group and won first place out of the five in the finalist group. Projects ranged from engineering design, to mathematical modeling, to culinary research, to business planning. The OCE and OMAFRA KTT sponsored the entire course with specific team sponsorship from Jersey Ontario and Dairy Farmers of Ontario. Team members had 5 to 10 minutes to present on May 18th at the conference held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.