Engineering Students Eat Like Soldiers

Through a presentation by Shannon Wagner, a U.S. Army educator, and several Army personnel, students taking the Project Lead the Way Introduction to Engineering Design class with teacher Brad Kassner learned about the history and development of U.S. Army MREs – Meals, Ready-to-Eat.

The meals have experienced many changes and improvements since their introduction during the Revolutionary War, all of which were designed by engineers at a lab in Natick, Mass. Metal can packaging changed to plastic bags during World War II when air surveillance became more prevalent, as enemies could detect metal on the ground.

Today, MRE menu selections have broadened greatly, encompassing vegetarian, Kosher, and Halal options. Meals now even include such “luxuries” as M&M and Skittles candy. The food is designed to have a shelf life of up to three years, and can be eaten at room temperature; however, a flameless heater — an engineering application of the heat-generating chemical reaction that results from mixing magnesium and water — is included for hot meals.

CJ students got to sample three different MREs during period 8 on Wednesday, Dec. 7 and found them to be not too bad, but not quite up to par with “mom’s cooking.”

After school, 7th and 8th grade students from Bishop Leibold and St. Chris had the opportunity to sample the Army’s combat cuisine during a CJ STEMM Scholar program on campus. All seventeen grade school participants had a chance to taste the MREs, and were also introduced to a free Web-based nationwide STEM competition for students in grades six through nine called eCYBERMISSION.

Story and photos provided by Meg Draeger, CJ STEMM coordinator. For more information and opportunities to get involved, browse the STEMM Web pages at or contact Mrs. Draeger via email or by phone at 937.461.3740 x487.