Girls’ invention puts fizz into healthy drinks

Girls’ invention puts fizz into healthy drinks

JEC sixth-graders Neshama Fournier, left, and Sarah Brown show the fizz invention that won them second place in the Liberty Science/Telebrands invention competition. Photos courtesy JEC
JEC sixth-graders Neshama Fournier, left, and Sarah Brown show the fizz invention that won them second place in the Liberty Science/Telebrands invention competition. Photos courtesy JEC

For parents who worry about the fattening effects of soda, here is a new possibility: a way to make healthy carbonated drinks. This innovative approach comes courtesy of two sixth-graders at the Jewish Educational Center’s Yeshiva in Elizabeth.

The students, Neshama Fournier of West Orange and Sarah Brown of Elizabeth, won second place in the Liberty Science Center’s first Student Inventors Day, back in November, with the invention they dubbed Sci-Fizz.

The girls used fumaric acid, baking soda, and water to turn any drink — even nutrient-rich fresh fruit or vegetable juices — into bubbly carbonated soda. The idea emerged from a school-wide search for ideas.

As second-place winners, Sarah and Neshama received a trophy and $750 in scholarship funds for their school.

The JEC duo developed Sci-Fizz with guidance from Joel Javitt, the yeshiva’s part-time science laboratory instructor and a JEC parent himself. His full-time job is as supervisor of science and engineering projects with the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education, which sponsored the competition project and is a major backer of the JEC’s overall science program.

The girls say they think their invention would be great for special occasions, like parties, or — as Sarah said — “when you want to impress someone, like a boss.”

She said placing so well in the competition was “very, very awesome.” It was also a surprise, because as they were doing their presentation to the judges, a tube on their contraption burst. “There was an explosion and the soda sprayed all over us and the judges,” she said.

What was also weird, Sarah added, was that she has never liked soda, but that turned out to be an asset. “I had to do all the tasting,” she said with audible distaste, “because I could notice bubbles even when other people couldn’t.”

For Neshama, this could be just a first step in a career promoting health. She has been interested in science since third grade, particularly in anatomy, and is considering becoming a doctor. As for the product, she liked the fizzy cranberry juice they tested, and an iced tea. “That was really nice,” she said.

In a letter announcing the girl’s second-place win, leaders of the yeshiva said, “We are so incredibly proud of Sarah and Neshama and are deeply grateful to Mr. Javitt for his dedication and support of this amazing educational venture.”

Javitt said the two girls were active participants in the lunchtime science program. “Working on this project took a lot of time and effort. It required out-of-class time, and staying late after school, and to do that you really need family support,” he said.

Teams of young inventors, ages eight to 14 from 20 schools, took part in the contest, which was cohosted and judged by Telebrands Corp., the consumer products company based in Fairfield. A panel of three judges included A.J. Khubani, Telebrands’ founder and CEO; Emlyn Koster, president and CEO of the Liberty Science Center; and a student judge.

The judges chose the three inventions they deemed the most useful, and the most likely to appeal to the public.

The first-place award — including a possible chance to work with Telebrands to sell their product — went to a team from Littleton Elementary School in Parsippany. Their invention was Green Paws, dog booties made from biodegradable and nontoxic materials.

Third place went to a team from School 14 in Bayonne for their invention, Swing It Heels, high-heeled shoes that can be turned into flats simply by folding the heel into a cavity in the sole of the shoe.

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