BYU students on the road to national food science competition

Five BYU students are studying hard for their chance to win a national food science competition.

Five BYU students are studying hard for their chance to win a national food science competition. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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PROVO — Five BYU students are studying hard for their chance to win a national food science competition.

Amy Pitts and four other Brigham Young University students won the Institute of Food Technologists regional competition in March by correctly answering dozens of trivia questions about food science. The team is headed to Chicago in July for the College Bowl Competition to try to take home the national championship.

"It's a big deal in the food science community to win this competition. It shows you're very dedicated to the discipline. It's something you can put on your resume as an accolade," she said. "My professors who won when they were in college still talk about it."

The Institute of Food Technologists Student Association hosts a college bowl competition every year that allows students to get involved in the food science industry, network with professionals and other students, and gain experience with marketable skills, Pitts said. The students competing also get to attend the Institute of Food Technologies' annual food science and innovation expo.

Pitts is a food science major and the team captain of this year's college bowl team. She said competition participants are given categories beforehand of what the questions could be about, and teams of students have to buzz in first to get a shot at answering correctly.

In addition to the buzz questions, there are also bonus questions that have longer, free-response-style answers.

Questions ranged from allergens and vitamins to nutrition label requirements to artificial food colorants to the ingredients in a Big Mac. While some questions are easy for the students, Pitts said some of the questions are difficult, including one her team got wrong that was about the name of the formula that describes the internal shape of a bubble.

"A lot just depends on what the questions are ... we have no clue what the questions will be. It could be things we're prepared for, and it could be things we're not prepared for. It's hard to know everything," she said.

BYU's college bowl team took fourth place last year and was actually beaten out by some graduate students who had done their undergrad work at BYU, Pitts said.

BYU is also currently tied for the most ever wins at the competition, but Pitts' team is hoping to tip the scales in its favor this summer.

"We consistently compete in nationals. It's just really difficult to win because every team puts so much effort into it ... we're up against some very, very competent people," Pitts said.

The school receives a cash prize if the team wins, and the money goes back into the school's funds to help new students compete. The winners also get banned for life so individual students can't win multiple times in a row.

Pitts said she has always loved food because it's a "universal thing" that ties people together, and she is excited for the team to showcase its hard work in Chicago.

"I think we have a really good chance. We have a really great team this year, everyone has put in a lot of work and we know what we're doing," she said. "We just focus on knowing as much as we can about our specific topics that we study. We hope we will win!"

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