Prepare to launch: Iowa 4-H to send fair foods into space for STEM learning

Iowa State University Extension
People walk by several fair food stands ready for business Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, at the Benton County Fair in Sauk Rapids.

AMES, Iowa - Whether anticipating a crispy corn dog on a stick, fresh baked cookies or a sticky caramel apple, Iowans often look forward to the food at the Iowa State Fair.

This year, instead of eating these treats, Iowa 4-H Youth Development will be sending them into space – all in the name of science.

On Saturday, Aug. 14, at 9 a.m., fairgoers of all ages can watch as their favorite fair foods are launched into space using a high-altitude balloon. The event will take place in the parking lot outside the renovated Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building on the fairground.

The launch, done in partnership with the Make to Innovate Lab at Iowa State University, the NASA Iowa Space Grant Consortium and the Stratospheric Ballooning Association, is an opportunity to teach youth about STEM, space and making scientific predictions for what might happen to the foods when they reach space.

“The students in Make to Innovate have been hard at work ensuring that we have a fun and safe flight with this launch,” said Matthew Nelson, Make to Innovate director. “This project is just one of many projects we do at Make to Innovate and is a great way for students to learn engineering in a fun, hands-on environment.”

A short 10-minute presentation will kick off the launch, providing education on high-altitude ballooning. Giveaway drawings will be awarded for the youth who can correctly predict what will happen to the food in space and how high the balloon will go. After the launch, the balloon will later be recovered, and a video feed of the journey will be shared with the public.

Iowans can also buy an event t-shirt to commemorate the event, available to purchase through Raygun, at

“We have had such a great time collaborating with our partners on this event,” said Sara Nelson, Iowa 4-H STEM program specialist and assistant director of education and outreach for the Iowa Space Grant Consortium. “We wanted to showcase the fun side of STEM for youth and their families. So, if this event has caught your interest, we encourage you to check out all of the great STEM activities sponsored by Iowa 4-H and the NASA Iowa Space Grant Consortium.”

More event details and the announcement of which fair foods will be launched will be available on the Iowa 4-H Facebook page. For more information about this learning experience or the Iowa 4-H Youth Development program, please contact your ISU Extension and Outreach county office or visit the Iowa 4-H website at

Learn more about Make to Innovate projects by visiting