Thursday, September 19, 2013

Judging the Science Fair

Earlier this week, I served as a judge for the science fair at the Instituto de Educacion Superior Tecnologico Publico de Marco, the local technical school. It turned out to be much more formal than I expected. I thought I'd just walk around and look at displays and talk to students, but no. Instead, I was assigned to the food science program and was given 5 lengthy term papers (in Spanish) to read and grade according to a very specific rubric. In an hour. Then, I went to each of the groups' tables and the students gave me a presentation on the food they'd created. A lot was riding on this, because the winners get to go on to the provincial science fair, and if they win there, to the regional fair.

The projects were all good ones. The task of grading papers was awfully familiar.

This group made yogurt that used local milk and a Peruvian fruit. Instead of sugar, they sweetened it with stevia. Their idea was to produce something beneficial for consumers with diabetes. It was excellent.

These students also used handmade yogurt, baked into a flan flavored with local fruit. The great thing about being assigned to the culinary program was that I got to try all the food!

The next group invented an empanada (pot pie) with Guinea pig meat. It was yummy. Cuy (Guinea pig) is high in protein and low in fat, making it a very healthy meat. It's also very cheap and easy to raise. Archeological evidence has found cuy bones in human living sites going back 5 thousand years in our region.

Next was a baby food made from quinoa, a traditional grain that has been raised here since antiquity. The students tested it at a local nido (infant care facility) and the babies had a very low spit-out rate.

The last food I taste-tested was an instant lunch made of dried olluco (a native tuber kind of like a cross between potato and yam) and alpaca meat. (Alpacas are like a smaller version of a llama.) These students did an especially professional job with their data analysis.

I was glad to be able to help out as a judge. It was a very tasty morning!

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