Grants put vehicle technology and culinary arts into top gear
Erik Pindera, CONTRIBUTOR
A vegetable casserole that tastes like candy? A vehicle that works in extreme temperatures? Red River College students may be a part of more culinary and automotive innovations.
The college’s applied research enterprise has received its biggest influx of research funding. The vehicle technology and food development sectors will receive $5.9 million over the next five years.
The RRC culinary research program received a five-year Innovation Enhancement Grant of $2.3 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Proposed activities in the culinary program include creating new products and recipes, developing a health-specific menu, consumer research in restaurant and industrial settings, food service technology research and development, and reducing and reusing food waste.
“This might be an opportunity to bring in the energy efficiency side of things as well — the composting of food and composting of byproducts. It’s something we’re thinking of,” said Ray Hoemsen, the executive director of RRC’s research partnerships and innovation.
Culinary students say they are excited about the funding.
“We’ve had programs cut that I would like to see reinstated,” said Nathan Horton, a second-year culinary student. For example, he’d like to see meat fabrication back in the culinary curriculum, he said.
The existing culinary research program relies on the innovation and experience of culinary instructors and students. The students work closely with regional industry leaders.
“Anyone engaged in the culinary school can benefit from the funding,” said Mavis McRae, a food research professional at RRC. “Specifically, we aim to hire at least three students per year under the co-op program, more depending on the number of projects we have in progress.”
In the co-op program, students can work on research projects or in industrial competitions.
The college’s Vehicle Technology and Energy Centre (VTEC) received a $2.3 million NSERC five-year Innovation Enhancement Grant. The centre plans to research vehicle performance and vehicle development, which are relevant to both vehicle manufacturers and students.
VTEC also received a $1 million College-Industry Innovation Fund and a $300,000 Innovation Operating Fund from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The college will use the money to develop MotiveLab, a drive-in vehicle testing centre. It will feature a temperature-controlled climactic chamber capable of accommodating large vehicles and heavy equipment.
Students outside of the automotive programs will also benefit from the testing centre, Hoemsen said.
“We will bring in electrical technology, mechanical engineering students,” Hoemsen said. “We’ve had projects in which business students were involved, for a business or marketing analysis of the technology. It’s an opportunity to bring pretty much everybody we can into it.”