For a class project, three MIT students developed a way to use a 3-D printer to form soft-serve ice cream into any given shape as a technique to encourage students to learn about science. But is bribing our kids with high-tech desserts really the way to get them interested in their education?
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Science meets sweets

Massachusetts Institute of Technology students Kyle Hounsell, Kristine Bunker and David Donghyun Kim created an ice cream machine that implements the technology of a 3-D printer to transform ordinary soft-serve ice cream into specific shapes. The machine was created to fulfill an assignment for MIT Professor John Hart's class in additive manufacturing. The students used a Cuisinart soft-serve maker, Kenmore freezer, Solidoodle printer and liquid nitrogen to get the final result — a 3-D soft-serve dessert in the shape of a star.

Inspiration behind development

When asked about the inspiration for the creation of this high-tech soft-serve machine, Bunker told TechCrunch, "We were inspired to design this printer because we wanted to make something fun with this up-and-coming technology in a way that we could grab the attention of kids. We felt that it was just as important to come up with a new technology as it was to interest the younger generation in pursuing science and technology so we can continue pushing the limits of what is possible.”

Ice cream persuasion?

I'm in no way undermining the incredible intelligence of these students, and I'm pretty blown away by the concept of 3-D ice cream. I mean, the closest I've come to making homemade ice cream is the "in a plastic baggie" version that I do with my kids. No technology needed. It's not pretty.

However, I'm not convinced that this concept is the thing that will make kids dive into their science homework headfirst. After all, Frankenfoods for kids already come in all shapes and sizes these days. Dinosaur nuggets, anyone? How about alphabet soup, crackers, cookies or cereal? Have any of these fun-shaped foods actually encouraged kids to crack a history book or learn their letters? I would seriously love some hard research on that.

Food should be fun

My littles are big fans of shaped foods. They make eating fun for kids. My 6-year-old loves Scrabble Junior Cheez-Its so he can make his name from the letters in his snack bag. And I've been using cookie cutters to make their sandwiches into unique shapes for years. I totally get the "make food fun for kids" concept, especially when it comes to eating healthy.

Will ice cream really encourage kids to like science class?

The MIT students wanted to create something to engage children and get them excited about science and technology, and that's an admirable charge. But let's face it — ice cream is already something that kids get pretty jazzed about regardless of the shape it is in. My kids could lick an amoeba-shaped puddle of ice cream soup off the hot concrete and still think it's the best thing ever. And they'd probably never ask about the methodology that took the ice cream from frozen treat to melted puddle.

I believe kids already have inclinations toward specific interests from a very young age.

However, I believe kids already have inclinations toward specific interests from a very young age. And if a child who has a slight interest in science, technology or how things work has an opportunity to watch his own custom-shaped ice cream treat being made and learn about the high-tech process along the way, it couldn't help but serve to encourage that interest.

Tell us!^

Would eating shaped soft-serve help amp up your kid's interest in science?

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