Oak Creek - Local high school students got a taste of the real world developing a soda for the 2012 Taste of Oak Creek.
The cherry vanilla soda, called Knightro Fusion was unveiled Feb. 16 at The Taste of Oak Creek at the Oak Creek Community Center.
The brand new soda was formulated for and with the cooperation of the Black Bear Soda Co., Oak Creek.
But the brains behind the brew belong to the two high school teachers who collaborated to create and market the new product: Jim Buss, AP chemistry teacher, and Michael Burden, marketing teacher.
Buss said he wanted to challenge his advanced science students, and he got the idea to create a soda after surfing the International Food Technologists website, www.ift.org, and realizing that food chemistry is one of the five top job-growth areas now.
He approached Black Bear, which embraced the idea of creating a new soda flavor and provided syrups for the project. Over a six-week period, his students mixed ingredients, conducted taste tests and perfected a formula.
"We're the only high school in the United States that has done anything like this," said Buss, adding that a project of this scope is more apt to be found at the collegiate level.
But making the soda wasn't enough.
"Jim approached me on the marketing aspect of it," said Burden.
A schoolwide soda-naming contest was held, which Knightro - for the school mascot - and Fusion - to note the mix of cherry and vanilla flavors - won.
And in Burden's class, the students created labels, developed fliers for the Taste of Oak Creek and wrote news releases.
"It was really neat for my students to see how what started out in AP chemistry wound up in marketing," he said.
Chemistry students Eric Cero of Oak Creek and Luke Mathers of Franklin said the project gave them an awareness of how chemistry is applied practically.
"We learned about what you can do with chemistry outside the classroom," said Cero.
"Mr. Buss' main idea was to get us interested in possible careers," said Mathers, who will attend the University of Wisconsin next year and study biology and food engineering. "It's one of my future possibilities for a career."
Mitch Reuter, a marketing student who lives in Oak Creek, said it was meaningful for him to learn all the different facets of marketing, from using focus groups, to collaborating over a label's design to learning that the use of color on printed material costs more.
"In the process, you learn what happens in the real world," he said.
Black Bear donated 636 20-ounce bottles of the soda for the Taste of Oak Creek, a benefit for the Oak Creek-Franklin Foundation for Education.
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