DECATUR – The initial results looked like cottage cheese composed of the largest curds known to man.

Rather than panic, however, the young lab partners introduced more whipping cream until they achieved a smoother consistency. Then, although divided about whether to add anything more, one grabbed a few chocolate chips and stirred them in.

This was the winning combination for Jordan Comish of Highland and Matt Vangunten of East Peoria during an ice cream-making contest Friday afternoon in Millikin University's Leighty-Tabor Science Center.

The activity was one of 15 workshops across campus, each designed to give first-year students a taste of performance learning even before classes begin Monday.

Molly Berry, director of Inclusion and Student Engagement, said she wanted freshmen to experience the university's core educational philosophy from the get-go.

“It's a fun way for students to start developing their academic identity within their major prior to the start of classes,” Berry said.

Ice cream making was part of the workshop for chemistry majors, and because the cooling agent was liquid nitrogen rather than ice, the process required taking safety precautions, such as wearing goggles.

Because she works at the South Shores Dairy Queen, Cassidy Cowger of Moweaqua thought she had an edge with her strawberry/chocolate concoction, deemed fluffiest by the judges.

Rachel Patty of St. Louis and Jacob Hamilton of Belleville labored over their formula the longest, debating about adding extra sugar to bump up the sweetness while everyone else watched.

“This is really intense,” Hamilton remarked, dissolving the silence with laughter.

Paris Barnes, associate professor of chemistry, told the students they had experienced a microcosm of what they'll be doing at Millikin the next four years. They started with a proposal, performed their own research and then presented their results for evaluation, he said.

Professor George Bennett and assistant professor Kyle Knust cast their votes for Comish and Vangunten, although they said the choice was tough. Barnes and assistant professor Tim Guasco split their votes among the other contestants.

The winners said their decision to leave out the strawberries made all the difference.

“I like simple ice cream with stuff in it, like cookie dough or Oreos,” Vangunten said.

“There's no need to make good things complicated,” Comish added.

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