Months of preparation paid off last weekend for about 25 Miami Northwestern Senior High School (MNW) students who had the experience of a lifetime at the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival’s “Fun and Fit as a Family” event at Jungle Island.

As part of The Education Effect partnership with FIU, the students demonstrated “blender bikes” – pedal-powered stationary bikes fitted with blenders – to prepare a special concoction using ingredients grown in their school garden.

The frozen raspberry lemonade flavored with mint and agave nectar was given a special name – the “Bull Slushee,” after the school mascot – and was a hit with festival-goers.  More than 100 samples were distributed in the first hour alone.

“They are going like hotcakes,’’ said MNW student Brianna Gilbert as she walked through the crowd handing out samples. “People love it.’’

“I like that it isn’t too sweet,’’ said Lynsee Hee Kyeong, who brought her 2-year-old son Taejin to the event and let him take a ride on one of the blender bikes. “It’s light and refreshing.’’

Students demonstrated their blender bikes to the public at SOBEWFF's Fun and Fit as a Family event.

Students demonstrated their blender bikes to the public at SOBEWFF’s Fun and Fit as a Family event.

The highlight of the day came when the students got to demonstrate one of their blender bikes on the main festival stage with celebrity chef Robert Irvine, who whipped up a strawberry banana smoothie before a crowd of several hundred children and their families.

“It’s very important that we cook with our children and teach them where food comes from,’’ Irvine said as his personal trainer Eric Fleishman pedaled furiously on stage. “Good food, fitness and family – it’s all connected.’’


The Food Network’s Robert Irvine showcases a blender bike on stage.

The blender bike project is part of The Education Effect’s new Plant it Forward initiative at MNW, which combines hands-on learning across a variety of disciplines, including nutrition, culinary arts, welding, design, manufacturing and social entrepreneurship.

FIU engineering students helped with the design and construction of the bikes; Mark D’Alessandro, a professor in FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, worked with students on the recipe.

“How many kids get to say they went to the South Beach Wine and Food Festival,’’ said MNW senior Starr Walden, who stayed after school to help develop the lemonade recipe. “I’ve been with The Education Effect since day one. It’s provided us with so many opportunities.’’

Founded in 2011 by a $1 million seed grant from JPMorgan Chase, The Education Effect is a university community school partnership that aligns the university’s expertise, research and resources to address the most pressing educational and social needs of MNW and its feeder schools in Liberty City.

Partnership Director Maria Lovett said the blender bike project combined academic instruction with career and technical education.

“This was an amazing opportunity for the students to share their creations with the public but it also created a connection between college and career opportunities,’’ Lovett said. “Students from all over the school were engaged – environmental science, culinary arts, welding. It was a true team effort.’’

Late in the day, as he mixed ingredients for the next batch of lemonade, MNW sophomore Humberto Amores wiped his brow and said the best part of the project was sharing the students’ creations with other people, particularly in Liberty City.

“There’s not much fresh, organic food in our neighborhood,’’ he said. “It’s a food desert. Everything we make we get to share with people.’’

In addition to Fun and Fit as a Family, the students have demonstrated the blender bikes at local farmers markets and elementary schools. The bikes were displayed at FIU’s Engineering Expo last week and will be featured at several upcoming Earth Day events and the Fairchild Challenge at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in April.

The students even received several offers from people who’d like to buy a blender bike, Lovett said.

“It’s exciting because it creates another great opportunity for the students to learn new skills,’’ Lovett said. “From creating a business plan to marketing, calculating labor and construction costs – it’s all about providing students with the opportunity to share what they know, what they are experts in. This is social entrepreneurship – concepts students can definitely use in the future.’’

For more information on The Education Effect, visit the website or contact the Office of Engagement at (305) 348-7752.