Teen girls send edible invention into space
May 16th, 2011
12:45 AM ET
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John Zarrella is CNN's Miami correspondent. He has been covering space shuttle launches since 1984 and today, he'll be at the Kennedy Space Center as Commander Mark Kelly, husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, launches the Endeavour into space for the last time.

Science was not on the top of sixteen-year-old Mikayla Diesch’s list of careers. “I thought I was gonna be President about a year ago,” Mikayla told me as we stood about five miles from the Shuttle Endeavour sitting on the launch pad.

Quite a bit changed last year for Mikayla and her fourteen year old sister Shannon. They won a Conrad Foundation Spirit of Innovation competition that challenges students to come up with commercially viable solutions to real world problems. The girls’ award came in the nutrition category for developing a nutrition bar. It’s made of oats mainly and, “cranberries, apple pieces, cinnamon and a few nuts like almonds and cashews,” Mikayla says.

At first, Mikayla wasn’t too excited about the project. Sister Shannon talked her into it. “I was like, it sounds fun. It’s different,” Mikayla says, “But, I don’t know if I really want to do it. She’s like, ‘come on you can do it,’ and then we did it. Like, I decided ok I’m gonna do this and it was awesome.”

So you ask, ‘what do a nutrition bar and the Space Shuttle have in common?’ Well, the girls developed their “Stem Bar” as it’s called using NASA’s standards to certify food products for space flight. From Battle Creek, Michigan, the girls got some guidance and mentorship from the folks at Kellogg's.

But, they did the work themselves, spending many hours in the kitchen. “Mostly it was just trial and error,” Shannon says, “We’d try putting some, a ton of stuff together and that would taste gross. So, we’d go back and change something and then it would taste gross too. Then we’d go back and try it again and that would taste better so it was just basically trial and error the whole time.

The cranberries were tough. “We tried getting smaller cranberries that didn’t have so much sweetness in them and that was definitely better,” Shannon said. Her sister added, “We ended up with cranberries, but not juice infused cause when you did juice infused, you’d take a bite and it would be a gusher. You get a bunch of sweet, sticky sweet cranberry. It wasn’t very good with the rest of the bar.”

After their bar won, NASA took a look at it. The bar was put through testing at the Johnson Space Center in Houston food laboratory and was approved for flight. The bars are being taken into space for the Endeavour astronauts to eat as a nutritional supplement.

For Mikayla, there's no more talk of being President, “I kind of got more interested in science and math and realized it’s really important and there’s kind of a lack of people pushing kids, and that is really important.” The girls say they are considering marketing their bar to raise money for school programs.

Shannon and Mikayla were at the Kennedy Space Center last month when the Endeavour launch was delayed. They’re back. No way they were going to miss a chance to see something they made fly in space. Shannon is pretty excited, “Something I made is on there. That’s just so awesome.”

Previously - 3-2-1...Lunch! Fuel for watching the Space Shuttle and In space, no one wants to smell your stinky fish meal

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Filed under: Outer Space


soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. hi

    nice job girls!

    April 25, 2013 at 7:38 pm | Reply
  2. Sow

    if they were the first to invent the chocolate bar, then yes, i would be kissing their fingers in joy...

    May 23, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Reply
  3. Babak from LA

    You go girls!! I like reading about smart people.....

    May 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  4. Dngrmse

    Making food that has low water activity, accounts for loss of taste in microgravity, meets specific caloric density sure sounds like science to me. They also found a way to stop long chain omega three fatty acids (fish oil) from oxidizing in food which is something that none of the big food companies has managed figure out yet. Given that I suggest that they are well qualified to understand what is and what is not science.

    May 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Reply
  5. engineer long time

    They engineered a nutritional snack for use in micro-gravity on the most . What did you do today?

    May 16, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Reply
    • Sinister Sister@engineer long time

      hoo-rah!

      May 17, 2011 at 7:21 am | Reply
  6. engineer long time

    It's about time I get to hear about teens doing something constructive besides texting. Looks like everybody here needs something constructive to do. Go girls!

    May 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  7. Clarrisa

    Stop saying this in science. Making a bar so it won't squish or squirt is not very scientific.

    May 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  8. Clarrisa

    A redefined recipe is not a new invention. If I take an old recipe and change it t suit me is it my recipe or just an altered recipe from someone else.

    May 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  9. Mad Scientist

    Sounds like some of the comments are from people unimpressed with what goes into developing a "granola bar." Makes you wonder why those big food companies hire FOOD SCIENTISTS to run their R&D stuff, maybe because it's not so simple to make a snack food that has a year or more shelf life, and then what about calculating nutrition, protein load, etc, etc.. I think those girls are amazing to get their bar on the space shuttle, that couldn't have be easy to arrange. Girls, don't let the negative comments get you down, you know whose smarter.

    May 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  10. Kynt

    Hey girls, this IS AWESOME. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. As a scientist myself I'm incredibly happy to see youngsters, especially girls discover their interest in science. It takes work, but as you just experienced, it can be incredibly rewarding. (Much more so than being president, I'm sure.).

    May 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  11. bb

    where are the girls from?

    May 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Reply
  12. International High School Teacher

    My friends, I am sure the rigor around the qualifications and requirements for the competition are a bit understated in this article. The ability to use the K.I.S.S. methodology (keep it short/simple) is an art. These yound woman deserve plently of accolades for their space "cereal bar"; I am sure it passed very high standards for calories/nutritional criteria/density and composition/durability, et cetera. Kudos to them. My only comment is to tell Mikayla: you can be both – scientist and President. If you are embarking on social enterprise venture with your sister that is scientifically sound, endorsed by NASA, highly marketable, and you want to use the funds to support educational programs... it sounds like this is the kind of social responsibility and cause-oriented innovation we need in ANY kind of leadership position. Congratulations from the Dominican Republic!

    May 16, 2011 at 9:43 am | Reply
  13. Happy Omnivore

    For Mikayla, there's no more talk of being President, “I kind of got more interested in science and math and realized it’s really important and there’s kind of a lack of people pushing kids, and that is really important.”

    And THAT'S what this is all about. GoodONya Ladies. KUTGW.

    May 16, 2011 at 7:20 am | Reply
  14. Jarno

    What's with all the negative? Nobody should be expecting 14 year old kids to make groundbreaking inventions, what these kids did was a science project that ended up being actually used – that it's a humble granola bar isn't the point. They did well to have set their bar that high, to get their food onto the astronaut's menu. And they learned about science and experimentation to boot, and found it exiting. That's the sort of thing that gives rise to the enthusiasm that can lead to a career in science.

    May 16, 2011 at 6:31 am | Reply
    • Bill

      A science experiment requires a theory... 14 or not, that was one of the first things I was taught during science fairs in school. So, to call this science is ridiculous. But, great job on happening on a recipe. I suggest laying off the math and science and heading to the culinary field.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:46 am | Reply
  15. Jack of all inventions

    They didn't invent "jack sh" that's a granola bar lmao!

    May 16, 2011 at 6:09 am | Reply
    • Robin Williams

      Jack yard in your own back off, hater.

      May 16, 2011 at 7:29 am | Reply
  16. R.S.

    These are 14 year old girls, not brain researchers, you clowns. What do you expect them to do, conduct gamma ray research for the astronauts on the ISS?

    May 16, 2011 at 4:06 am | Reply
  17. deepwater805

    Very cool ladies. I'm impressed...

    May 16, 2011 at 3:34 am | Reply
  18. Alejandro

    Not trying to sound like a dick or anything but all they did was make something that has already been invented so it shouldn't be a considered an "invention" ya know?

    May 16, 2011 at 3:31 am | Reply
    • Sinister Sister@Alejandro

      What sort of name did you make for yourself when you were 14?
      Don't pick the article apart. Take its meaning in its entirety.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:16 am | Reply
  19. zoundsman

    Mmmm, I'd like to try a bar.Taste is generally subjective, and their bar may taste a lot better than
    already marketed products.

    May 16, 2011 at 2:59 am | Reply
  20. Derp

    What an innovative invention...

    May 16, 2011 at 2:18 am | Reply
    • Michael

      Given our country's falling levels of both interest and performance in science in math, it's good to see someone stepping up.... even in light of a bunch of negativity from unqualified sources.

      What's the most innovative thing you've done lately.... posted an unnecessary comment?

      May 16, 2011 at 2:34 am | Reply
      • over

        yea... what about u ?

        May 16, 2011 at 2:45 am | Reply
      • Al

        I concur with Michael.

        May 16, 2011 at 7:15 am | Reply
  21. huh

    "It’s made of oats mainly and, “cranberries, apple pieces, cinnamon and a few nuts like almonds and cashews"
    WHAT? so they invented a nutrition bar that contains all the exact same things as all the other bars????? OK OK no pomegranate in theirs....

    May 16, 2011 at 2:08 am | Reply
    • Trauma Queen

      "huh

      "It’s made of oats mainly and, “cranberries, apple pieces, cinnamon and a few nuts like almonds and cashews"
      WHAT? so they invented a nutrition bar that contains all the exact same things as all the other bars????? OK OK no pomegranate in theirs...."

      Hater gonna hate!!

      May 16, 2011 at 2:13 am | Reply
      • Derp

        "huh

        "It’s made of oats mainly and, “cranberries, apple pieces, cinnamon and a few nuts like almonds and cashews"
        WHAT? so they invented a nutrition bar that contains all the exact same things as all the other bars????? OK OK no pomegranate in theirs...."

        Hater gonna hate!!

        Yep...

        May 16, 2011 at 2:19 am | Reply
    • rs1201

      Really nice to see to American clean cut teens occupied with something totally wholesome and beneficial. They'll do very well in life and I certainly wish them well.

      May 16, 2011 at 6:28 am | Reply
      • Dave

        clean cut? why does that matter? Didn't know centenarians patrolled these boards. Would this be less 'wholesome' if they had green hair and tattoos?

        May 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Reply

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