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GRCC students in NASA competition to make nutritious, tasty meals in edible containers to blast to International Space Station

Feb. 11, 2023, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Teams of Secchia Institute of Culinary Education students are competing to send into space meals that can be enjoyed by astronauts – containers and all.

It is the third year Grand Rapids Community College’s culinary students and faculty are competing in the NASA HUNCH competition, with a top prize of having their creations being rocketed to the International Space Station.

Students on Saturday competed in a preliminary round against students from the Regional Career Technical Center from Ypsilanti at the Grand Rapids Public Museum,

The Secchia Institute is partnering with the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District’s Careerline Tech Center, with students Katie Bird and Devon Vanderwall devising a recipe of Austrian style steak soup.

Bird and Vanderwall were preparing the soup alongside RCTC students preparing avocado beef stew with smoked mushrooms and fire roasted peppers.

Meanwhile, health and biomedical science students Abby Tichelaar and Cole Herring are working on edible cargo boxes with a goal of eliminating waste on space missions, where space on aircraft is at a premium.

Tichelaar and Herring attend Launch U, and partnership between GRCC and the Kent Intermediate School District.

Both teams are coached by Dr. Werner Absenger, Secchia Institute’s program director, and Secchia  instructor Jennifer Struik.

The team has been working since late October, faced with nutritional guidelines from NASA and a research project looking at how foods affect astronauts in low gravity.

About 20 culinary judges sampled the dishes on Saturday, with results known in several weeks. The next round will take place in Houston, where 10 finalists will compete.

The biomedical team is working on packaging that will hold nutrition bars, then be broken down into an edible solution and make snacks such as gummy bears.

GRCC’s 2020 team made it all the way to the finals, finishing second in the competition.