FOOD INNOVATION AS EMPIRICAL SUPPORT IN FOOD TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMMES
Food innovation opens up new market segments, satisfies the current consumer needs, and generates new valuable proposals, but can also be seen as a useful tool in encouraging active student participation in the learning process. Having into consideration this context, it has been scheduled the contest ‘Alimnova’, during the first semester of 2010/11 academic course.
The idea was planned as a pilot experience shared by two optative subjects of the 5th course from the Food Technology Department (Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Agrónomos) of the Polytechnic University of Madrid: ‘Cereal Industries’ and ‘Vegetables Transforming Industries’. Supported by the “Ayudas a la innovación educativa y a la mejora de la calidad de la enseñanza" 2010 UPM program.
The objective of contest ‘Alimnova’: to design a new food, which involved all students enrolled in the subjects afore mentioned organized in four components cooperative learning groups, consisted in the full development of a new product in each point of its productive chain: raw materials, elaboration process, transporting, storage, lifetime, marketing and quality control.
For this, a presentation session and screening of ideas was held. The preselected proposals were developed in pilot plants and quality control Food Technology department´s lab.The students analized 7 different worklines (Snailies, Choco-té, Snackdoitos, Línea Mediterránea (pan de huerta y galletas mediterráneas), Pan de algas y Pan de maca). The developed products were screened by an oral presentation in a jury (consisting of 3 teachers and a student of a superior course), responsible for naming the winner. During the oral presentation, the jury also assessed the product sensory.
It was a very motivating experience, which resulted, among other things, on test scores. Once completed, was evaluated by students through anonymous surveys; 78% of participants defined the experience as stimulating and creative, 73% agreed that their ability to problem-solving, research, analysis and data processing and reporting (both orally and in writing) had improved as a result of competition and 60% highlighted the importance of teamwork and organizational capacity planner. In the other hand, 20% of students did not identify any abilities to get better on their part both in the area of innovation, as in problem solving, data analysis, teamwork, etc.
In view of the results we can say that ‘Alimnova’ contest proved to be an innovative teaching tool and very useful for students, able to develop their skills, both corporately and individually. At the same time, and to implement them, allowed them to establish the knowledge acquired in the classroom, both of the subjects initially involved in the experiment, as previously studied in other disciplines.