Knowledge bites: the science of food ingredients, for everyone

 

Most food labels are full of unpronounceable words and mysterious abbreviations. In a series of interactive workshops, the Luxembourg Science Center project ‘EngrEdiEnts’ took participants on a food science journey learning about sugar-free sugar, astronaut food, best before and expiry dates and much more.

These one-hour, interactive workshops are designed for school classes, as well as the general public, addressing all age classes from 8 to 99. Activities were developed and delivered in four languages by science communicators with scientific backgrounds, all very well-received by participants.

“Participants witnessed spectacular demonstrations, carried out stunning experiments and got “their hands dirty” in order to create delicious food. Visitors explored the science behind our stoves intuitively, with all senses and in a fun way, which makes complex scientific concepts easy to understand and remember – science served to stick!

“In order to spice up the program we reached out to Luxembourgish chefs and in collaboration with them we created a video series, combining tasty recipes with piquant scientific facts with the purpose  to promoting our workshops and increase its public reach. In the process, participants are taught little bites of biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics, and are encouraged to think about the world around them. The ultimate aim is to get them to continue experimenting in their own lab – their kitchen at home.” – Nicolas Didier, Luxembourg Science Center

Over the course of the project, the LSC team offered the activities on average once a day in either Luxembourgish, French, German or English. School classes and groups could book the KitchenLab workshops ahead while the general public could spontaneously book a spot upon arrival at the Luxembourg Science Center. [i]

The EngrEdiEnt project built on the success of the LSC’s KitchenLab project, also supported by an FNR PSP-Classic grant. The EngrEdiEnt started the project kicked off with UnmixablE? ImpossiblE!, a workshop dedicated to the E-numbers implicated in the production of ice-cream. In the second activity participants discovered methods and additives to produce real Astronaut food. In the third workshop we revealed the differences between DEad or AlivE raising agents. The last workshop – SwEEt drEams introduced participants to various sweeteners.

Discover more about the different workshops below.

[i] May 2021: KitchenLab is currently closed due to the COVID pandemic. However, under the circumstances, the LSC team is working on an acceptable, user-friendly re-opening solution.

RELATED FUNDING

UnmixablE? ImpossiblE! – analysing the ingredients of ice cream

What makes ice cream smooth, and long-lasting in the freezer? Together with researcher Christos Soukolis, a researcher from the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) who did his PhD on ice cream, the LSC team developed a recipe which participants in the workshop could create while learning the science behind it.

A science communicator going through the ice cream recipe with a school class
Demonstrating how to mix a gas with a liquid

Astronaut food: Food conservation

Dehydrating, smoking, canning, cooking, freezing, curing, pickling, freeze drying, salt, vinegar or sugar: What are ways to make food last? Why it is necessary to conserve food in the first place? Why does food spoil? During this workshop participants were challenged to think of methods to preserve food for a stay at the International Space Station (ISS), before a science communicator explained microorganisms and their role in food going bad.

In a video to promote the Astronaut food workshop, the LSC worked with Damien Klein, a creative Luxembourgish chef made smoked salmon and a long-lasting salsa. Before the salmon was smoked, it was cured and a science communicator explained the composition of curing salt.

Participants tasting the difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated apples
Freeze-dried apple (bigger piece) compared to dehydrated apple
Visit of Lex Delles, Luxembourg Minister for Tourism & Enterprise
The process of sublimation being demonstrated during the ministerial visit

DEad or AlivE – baking powder versus yeast

This workshop saw half of the participants prepare a loaf of bread dough with yeast, while the other half used baking powder. As the dough was rising, the difference between the two agents were explained by way of an experiment.

In the left test tube, baking powder and water are mixed. This reaction immediately produces carbon dioxide, the balloon is blown up. In the right test tube, yeast, sugar and water are mixed, the production of carbon dioxide in a living organism takes more time, thus the balloon needs longer to blow up.

In a video to promote the DEad or AlivE workshop, the focus was on ‘good’ microorganisms in the kitchen. Together with Ben Weber, a young Luxembourgish chef, the team used various kinds of microorganisms to transform food: Lactobacillus were for example used to make Sauerkraut out of cabbage.

Three well-known Luxembourgish chefs & pastry chef joined for the videos

SwEEt drEams – Sugar-free sugar, does it exist?

What are different sugar substitutes are there? Here participants went on a journey discovering different aspects of sweeteners and sugar, including making their own cotton candy complete with a microscopic view of a cotton candy string.

Both cans have a volume of 330ml, but one is lighter than the other - how come?
Analysing cotton candy string under the microscope, one discovers that they form hollow tubes. This is the reason this technique is being investigated for the synthesising artificial veins

To top off the final workshop, an event revolving around creating and learning about [sweet] food and science was held with pastry chef Cathy Goedert, where participants were treated to interactive baking demonstrations as well as a huge volcanic eruption thanks to a science communicator mixing baking soda with vinegar.

Impressions from the SwEET EvEnt
Participants discovering a microscopic view of yeast

About the Luxembourg Science Center

The Luxembourg Science Center offers hands-on, playful and spectacular exhibits, shows and workshops, all part of its mission to promote science and technology to the general public, young and mature. Since its opening in 2017, it has welcomed a broad audience including school classes, families, couples, groups and enthusiasts from Luxembourg, the greater region and well beyond. By offering hands-on, playful and spectacular exhibits, shows and workshops we seek to fulfil our mission: spark interest and awake curiosity for STEM. Over 75 interactive exhibits, all purposefully conceived and built in-house let visitors investigate the concepts of mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetics, optics, acoustics, and robotics. Educational science shows introduce participants to the concepts of electricity, mechanics, electromagnetism, material science, fluids, optics, mathematics, and chemistry. The Luxembourg has received several grants from the FNR’s PSP programme, and won an FNR Award for Outstanding Promotion of Science to the Public.

https://www.science-center.lu


All photos by Luxembourg Science Center


This is a success story from the 2020 FNR Annual Report

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