High School Students Explore Food Truck Design at IMPETUS Beacon Campus Visit

March 6, 2023

Clarkson University’s Beacon Campus hosted 17 students from Beacon High School on February 9 as part of the Clarkson University Integrated Math and Physics for Entry to Undergraduate STEM (IMPETUS) program. Students learned more about the opportunities available through the program, before gathering into five groups to brainstorm and develop unique business proposals for Clarkson’s first-ever food truck.

Four students stand in a parking lot around a food truck
Four students stand in a parking lot around a food truck.

Clarkson's Institute for STEM Education (STEM Ed) administers IMPETUS, a full year STEM enrichment program. Last year, in partnership with the Clarkson Honors Program and the Institute for a Sustainable Environment (ISE), STEM Ed acquired and located at Beacon an 8-by-10 mobile food vending unit, with the purpose to use the unit as a focal point for students to develop proposals for a sustainable food truck.

Katie Kavanagh, Director of the Institute for STEM Education and co-director of the IMPETUS program believes the food truck can be an exciting gateway to seeing how STEM plays a role in our daily lives.

“Everyone has a favorite food that maybe is a family tradition or something they just love to indulge in. The food truck curriculum lets students have ownership over their project while simultaneously applying math and science principles from their classroom to real-world problem solving scenarios,” Kavanagh said. “They can actually experience it first-hand and make connections to the environment and where their food comes from. They naturally build teamwork and communication skills along the way. I cannot wait to see what they come up with.”

After touring the mobile food vendor along with their teacher coach, Marc Yacovone, student groups met to begin developing proposals for their envisioned food truck businesses. Led by STEM Ed staff Asher Pacht and Brigette Walsh, the groups used the sessions to create business names and select menu items, as well as design logos, uniforms, and signs, and make music selections.

Among the food truck businesses students proposed were:

  • Nice Spices, an Indian and Middle Eastern fast casual concept using naan bread and a selection of fillings and sauces, including meat and vegan options.  
  • High Fries, where curly, waffle or steak fries are topped with steak, chicken or fresh veggies and sauces.  
  • Super Hero - a classic New York deli truck serving hero sandwiches with superhero twists.

Beacon-based IMPETUS student groups will use the rest of the spring semester to further develop their proposals, addressing sustainability aspects like energy use, food waste, and responsible sourcing. They will also work within a budget to select equipment and set pricing to develop basic business planning skills. IMPETUS will produce a culminating Food Truck Design Contest with prizes for teams with the best proposals.

Clarkson’s IMPETUS program receives funding from the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP). Students receive academic support and mentoring, career planning and awareness, and college and other leadership recruitment opportunities. Beacon campus will host its 2nd annual Roller Coaster Camp in July 2023 for program participants.

Clarkson University is a proven leader in technological education, research, innovation and sustainable economic development. With its main campus in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Hudson Valley, Clarkson faculty have a direct impact on more than 7,800 students annually through nationally recognized undergraduate and graduate STEM-designated degrees in engineering, business, science and health professions; executive education, industry-relevant credentials and K-12 STEM programs. Alumni earn salaries among the top 2% in the nation: one in five already leads in the c-suite. To learn more go to www.clarkson.edu.
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