Everyone attending the GIANT Awards 40th anniversary celebration on Saturday will enjoy a chocolate treat created by students and faculty from three Grand Rapids Community College programs, gaining in-demand skills.
Since 1983, GRCC has hosted the annual awards recognizing African American leaders and organizations for their exceptional contributions in shaping the history and quality of life in West Michigan.
The 40th anniversary celebration will highlight past GIANT honorees and present a special award, with recipients revealed at the event. The gala starts at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at DeVos Place’s Exhibit Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW. Details are at grcc.edu/GIANT40.
Dr. Werner Absenger, program director for GRCC’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education, said he recognized the significance of the event, and connected with colleagues in the Manufacturing Department, the School of STEM Mechanical Design department, and the College Advancement team to work on a special project to enhance the celebration.
Faculty and students created about 1,000 chocolate bars with the GIANT Awards 40th anniversary logo, which will be shared with all guests attending the Saturday gala.
Students gained in-demand career skills while learning about the history of the GIANT Awards and how honorees shaped the community.
“The learning experience here is that to mass produce a simple food item, such as a special occasion chocolate bar, we need to have an interdisciplinary approach,” Absenger said. “Mechanical designers conceptualized a mold for plastics engineering students to create, and be used by culinary artists to pour the chocolate into. Communication and planning were the keys to an awesome product.”
Professor Michael Merchant, head of the Mechanical and Architectural Design Department, worked with students and state-of-the-art equipment in GRCC’s Makers Lab to craft the shape of the chocolate bar with the logo, then created a model using a 3D printer.
Merchant then collaborated with professor Scott Lampe, who works with students in the Plastics-Polymer Engineering Technology Certificate program. Lampe used the 3D printed mold and a thermoformer, a machine that surrounds the model in heated plastic, vacuums out the air and creates a reverse image that can be used as a mold for the chocolate.
After a test run, additional models were created to fabricate 66 molds to share with the culinary students in chef Wilfredo Barajas’ pastry class, who used dark chocolate couverture to melt and pour into the molds, then added a golden coating before packaging.
“It’s not a special recipe, but what makes it special is that my CA 204 Pastry students get tons of practice tempering chocolate,” he said. “Working chocolate to have the right crystal formation is advanced pastry. Having 1,000 bars to make has given my students an opportunity to practice and master chocolate tempering. We finished the chocolate bars with edible food-grade gold powder by brushing and, in some instances, we used an air compressor and a spray gun.”
The 40th anniversary logo and packaging was designed by Lisa Kirschner of the GRCC Communications Department.