STEM Students say “Smile”

The Princeton High School (PHS) 9th grade STEM program recently came together for a big collaborative project: making toothpaste.  This project stands out because students are utilizing their skills to make something that everyone uses. Originally it seemed easy, but it ended up being much harder than expected.

The STEM students had a special guest helping them out with their toothpaste creations.  Retired product developer, Tom Huetter, spent a week helping the STEM students as they started to make the bases of their toothpastes.

Tom Huetter assists STEM students as they create toothpaste.
Tom Huetter assists STEM students as they create toothpaste.

Huetter worked 10 years for Crest. During that time he created Crest for Kids and Tartar Control.  His tips and experience were welcomed by the STEM students, as they worked to devise their toothpaste recipes.

“The students have been making some pretty good-looking toothpaste,” said Huetter.

It all starts out with the ingredients. The students used baking soda, mint extract, salt, vanilla, clay, food coloring, and sugar. STEM students can choose whatever ingredients they want to use, but baking soda is the most important ingredient because it is the base.

STEM teacher, Brian Lien, noticed that the first round of toothpaste wasn’t very successful in certain ways.

“The toothpaste tasted really bad, very salty,” said Lien. “ It needed to be sweeter.”

After much trial and error, the last formulas tasted much better.

“They came up with some really good designs,” said Lien.

STEM students had to work as a team and develop everything it takes to create and launch a new product.  There were multiple steps: making the actual toothpaste, designing the packaging, and marketing the product.

Christian Corcega, PHS STEM student, was working on the toothpaste label.

“It took ages to come up with a name,” Corcega said. “We spent a long time brainstorming.  Eventually, we decided on ‘Doctor Cleaner Toothpaste.’”

One of the aspects of this project was to check the effectiveness of the toothpaste. Students tested their product while attempting to remove the stain from a coffee-stained hard boiled egg.

Coffee-stained eggs used to test toothpaste.
Coffee-stained eggs used to test toothpaste.

Corban Simms, PHS STEM student, attempted several formulas, using some strange flavors.

“We’ve had to have many different trials [in order to get the right taste],” Simms said.

The students worked with all five STEM teachers to accomplish this engineering task.  Brian Lien led the entire project. Andrew Fishback, PHS STEM science teacher, taught the students about acids and bases.  Bill Hoctor, PHS STEM math teacher, worked with students to figure out the cost analysis for creating their toothpaste. And Judy Kelly, STEM English teacher, and Amanda Setters, STEM social studies teacher, taught the students how to make commercials in order to market their products.

“My favorite part was definitely making the actual toothpaste,”  said Simms.

Every student’s toothpaste was unique. They all had different flavors and consistencies.  Once the students finished the toothpaste project, they wrote a report explaining the design process how they felt about it about their results.
The students had fun delving into the world of toothpaste and look forward to future STEM collaborations like this one.


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