The Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest
The Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest

The Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest

by Peter Wong

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With time travel and mysteries that need solving, the Galactic Academy of Science (G.A.S.) series instructs readers on how to think like scientists. Under the guidance of a Dude or Dudette from the future, the middle school characters are faced with treacherous, present-day crimes that require a historical knowledge of science in order to be solved. From investigating problems to analyzing data and constructing explanations and solutions, this series blends elements of sci-fi with educational methods that distill the key thinking habits of scientists and engineers.

The science of food safety combines with mystery in this G.A.S. adventure about an outbreak of foodborne illness

When a cruise featuring a cooking contest turns into a disaster of vomiting passengers, seventh-grade G.A.S. trainees Mae and Clinton have a mystery to solve. With help from Selectra Volt, Dudette from the future, the two kids travel through time to learn about the science of food safety. Between journeys to the past, they investigate clues aboard ship. But when a storm comes, and conditions aboard the disabled ship become desperate, can Mae and Clinton discover the cause of the outbreak in time?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943431038
Publisher: Tumblehome Learning, Inc.
Publication date: 06/01/2015
Series: Galactic Academy of Science
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 184
Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
File size: 7 MB
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Peter Wong is an engineer and an educator at the Boston Museum of Science. He has written engineering curriculum for middle school students, and he runs an afterschool science and engineering program. He lives in Brighton, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

The Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest

By Peter Wong, Pendred Noyce, Yu-Yu Chin

Tumblehome Learning, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Wong and Pendred Noyce
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-943431-03-8


Cruise Ship Departs Miami


Clinton Chang stood next to his friend Mae Harris on the deck of the giant cruise ship, waving good-bye to all the people on shore even though he didn't know any of them. "I can't believe we're really going on a cruise," he said. "I can't believe your mom let you bring me along."

Mae's mother was a nurse, and she would be working in the ship infirmary, the medical center, in return for a free cruise and small cabin for three. Clinton added, "I hope nobody on this cruise gets sick, so your mom has lots of time to just relax and have fun."

"I just hope I don't get seasick," Mae Harris said. "You know me and motion sickness."

"Don't even think about it," said Clinton. He nudged Mae with an elbow. "You know you have to get over that to be an astronaut. But hey, you did all right on the flight down to Miami."

Clinton knew how much Mae had been looking forward to this trip. She worked so hard at school that sometimes she got really tense. For the last couple of weeks she'd been acting crabby and nervous. He knew she'd packed and repacked her suitcase for a week, trying to foresee anything she might need. Clinton, on the other hand, just threw his stuff into a duffel bag at the last minute. The two of them were so different, he doubted they'd even be friends if not for some pretty amazing adventures they'd had with the Galactic Academy of Science.

As the ship pulled away from the wharf, Clinton turned from the rail and looked down the length of the ship. It was taller than most buildings he'd seen, and it seemed to stretch as long as a city block. "It really is like a city," he said. "A floating city."

"I know," said Mae. "Let's go back to the room and check the list of activities for today. We need to plan how to get the most out of everything."

They took the stairs down a few decks and then walked through a series of corridors to a bank of elevators. They passed the lifeboats where they had practiced the muster drill for emergencies as soon as they boarded.

"I hope we never have to use the lifeboats," Mae said.

"Don't worry," Clinton said. "I'm a strong swimmer, and I'll help you if we go overboard."

"Great," said Mae. "Wow. I feel so safe."

They took the elevator down several decks, walked past the conference rooms and purser desk where they had signed in, and descended one more staircase. Finally they reached their cabin, where Mae opened the door.

There were no windows, or portholes, as Clinton reminded himself they were called. Still, there was a double bed that Mae and her mother would share while Clinton slept on the pullout couch. It looked a little lumpy, but he didn't care.

Mae's mother was still unpacking clothes and arranging the room. "There you are," she said when they entered. "Would you like to get something to eat before I start my shift in the infirmary?"

"Ooh, food," Clinton said. "Where do we go first?" One of the cool things about this cruise was that there were supposed to be different kinds of food all over the ship.

"Let's try the buffet," Mae's mother, Gina, replied. "Make sure you wash your hands first. Actually, I'd like you to wash your hands very often while we're on the ship. Cruises are fun, but there's always the chance of a fast-spreading illness. Have you heard of norovirus?"

Mae wrinkled her nose. "Sally Hingston told me all about it when she found out I invited Clinton instead of her. Stomach aches, diarrhea, vomit splashing everywhere ..."

Clinton made a face, and Mae continued, "Isn't there a vaccine or something we can take?"

Mae's mom shook her head. "There's no vaccine for norovirus. Washing your hands is your best defense. Other than that you should focus on having fun, not worrying. Now wash your hands."

As Clinton and Mae jostled for space at the small sink, Mae's mother continued from the other room, "Speaking of food, did you see the notice about the cooking contest? There are actually two cooking contests on board. One is for adults and the other for kids your age. You two should sign up."

When they came out of the bathroom, Mae's mom gave them some brochures and shooed them away. "Why don't you go find a table while I finish up here. I'll be there in a minute."

Mae and Clinton made their way to the Calypso Buffet and found a quiet corner where they could look out to sea. Mae flipped open the brochure for the kids' cooking contest and started reading the contest rules aloud. Clinton let his mind drift. "I like to eat," Clinton said. "I'll be too busy eating to cook. I heard you can eat anytime you want on the cruise ship."

Mae let the brochure drop. "You're probably right. The only thing I know about cooking is from watching a couple of cooking shows. I never cook at home, and Mom's always in too much of a hurry to make anything fancy. We'd never win."

"Wait a minute," said Clinton. "I never said we couldn't win."

Just then, a whooshing sound filled the air, and there in front of them, in the seat they'd been saving for Mae's mom, sat their friend from the future — Selectra Volt.

Selectra was dressed in her usual skin-tight green outfit covered with pink puffballs. Her green and pink hair stuck out in its usual cheerful way, but she was frowning.

"Whoa, Selectra," Clinton said. "How'd you find us here?"

"We try to keep track of our G.A.S. recruits," Selectra said. "You are Clinton Chang, Asian-American, been on four missions?"

"Come on, you know that," Clinton said. "Can't we do without this official stuff?"

"Selectra!" Mae interrupted. "How can you just pop in like this, in the middle of a crowded room?"

Selectra turned her head to Mae, looking unconcerned. "It's easy to escape notice in a crowd. And you are Mae Jemison Harris, African-American, and want to be an astronaut like Mae Jemison?"

"You already know that," Mae said. "Really, Selectra, you can be so annoying."

"Do we have a mission?" Clinton asked.

"Yes. No. Soon." Selectra said. She blinked. "That is, maybe. Somebody is groobing things up."

"What do you mean?" Clinton demanded.

Selectra took a big breath that made her spiky hair sway and said, "We may need you to investigate a case aboard the cruise ship. Someone here may get sick and could even die, and it's a person who, mmm ... well, we can't afford to lose that person. The person is known in my time as a very important person."

"Who is it?" Mae asked.

"I can't tell you that," Selectra said. "You know the rules for the Galactic Academy of Science: First, I have to verify your identities. Second, I cannot go with you into the past where you may need to travel to solve this mission. Third and top, I cannot tell you anything about the future."

Clinton jumped up from his chair and raised his hands in the air. He said, "It's me, isn't it?" He was only half joking. Something about all these missions for the G.A.S. was beginning to convince him he really was going to be somebody. "I'm important to the future, so we have to save me."

"I can't tell you who the person is," Selectra said. She seemed more serious than usual. "You need to investigate the mystery on the ship. Keep your eyes open. Learn what you can about cooking and food safety. Take every opportunity. That's all I can say."

"Is Dr. G messing up this ship?" Mae asked. Dr. G was the villain Selectra had told them about on their last mission. She had explained that Dr. G led a group called S.A.G. that was committed to spreading false scientific information and computer hacking to interfere with scientific progress.

Selectra said, "We don't know if Dr. G is behind this. We don't even know if this is bad luck or an evil plot. All we know is you need to solve it." She rubbed her hand through her spiky hair and pulled an object that looked like a smart phone from her belt. "Here's your X-PA."

She laid the X-PA on the table, and Clinton picked it up. It still amazed him that a tool so small and light could be so powerful. On four occasions already, it had allowed Mae and him to travel through time and space to meet famous scientists and engineers. Its only weakness was that it ran out of power quickly at any one time and location, so they had to keep focused and work quickly.

Selectra talked in a rush, giving the standard instructions. "Your X-PA is set with the candidates to interview, various people for you to visit. Be sure to watch the Site Energy Bar so you have enough power to leave each place. You don't want to get stuck in the past. Visit the candidates and check back with the ship to see how things are going."

Clinton began to scroll through the list of "Candidates for Interview." He heard Selectra say, "Be careful. It would be totally unzwiffy for the two of you to get sick. Be careful of what you eat." By the time Clinton looked up, Selectra was gone.

"Oh, man," said Mae, wrinkling her brow. "I thought this was going to be a vacation."

"What are you talking about?" Clinton asked. "What could be more awesome? Another mission!"

"Someone's going to get really sick," Mae said. "That's going to be bad for my mom. Look, here she comes."

Mae's mother crossed the dining room and took the seat Selectra had just left. "What are you two looking so serious about?"

"The cooking contest," Clinton said. "We're thinking about the competition. I bet some of these other kids have practiced and everything."

"Wait," Mae said. "I thought you didn't want to bother with the cooking contest."

"That was before," Clinton said. "Now I want to learn all I can about cooking and food. We're going to dominate the contest. But first — we're going to dominate lunch."


Nicholas Appert and Bottled Food

Paris, France, 1812, Saturday

The buffet had amazing foods on display, from fresh Belgian waffles to southern fried chicken to makimono rolls. Mae tried out some steamed dumplings, salads with whole grains, and a soup with fresh herbs. Mae's mom had a salad with steak and some freshly baked bread. As for Clinton, Mae noticed he came back twice with his plate piled high.

After lunch, when Mae's mom left for her shift at the infirmary, Mae leaned across the table to whisper to Clinton. "Which shall we do first? Visit one of the Candidates for Interview, or work on our cooking skills for the contest?"

"No way!" said Clinton. "We still have a whole ship to explore. Let's start with the game arcade."

That was so like Clinton, Mae thought, as she followed him through the crowds leaving the dining room. He was always slacking off and procrastinating when there was work to do. The arcade was dark and beeping and packed with kids. Clinton got in line for a race car driving game, but Mae went to stand near the ship's rail so she could look out over the ocean. She loved seeing the horizon where the sea met the sky without a hint of land. If she kept her eyes on the view it was almost as if she were an explorer in the distant past. Maybe this was what it would feel like to be a Mars colonist — although there she would see nothing but barren reddish rocks instead of miles of rippling water. Mae shivered at the thought, but she still yearned to be one of the first people to live on Mars.

Watching the water slide along the side of the ship, Mae had an uncomfortable thought. When they used the X-PA for time travel missions to the past, the X-PA always brought them home when they finished. But what if this time the X-PA returned them back to where they started — and the ship had moved on? She and Clinton might be left treading water in an open ocean until they drowned.

The thought bothered Mae so much that she went looking for Clinton. She found him playing air hockey with two kids around their own age, a brother and sister, both Asian-looking with a hint of something else, with shiny black hair and brown eyes. The girl lunged over her end of the table like a pouncing cat and sent the puck slamming into the goal at Clinton's end.

"Ouch," said Clinton. "You win." He waved at Mae. "Hi. I made some new friends. Mae, this is Mattias Vargas and his sister, Riley. Mattias is nice but Riley's a killer. It's their first cruise too."

Mattias rather formally shook Mae's hand, while Riley waved and then looked at her feet without saying anything. For such a fierce air hockey player, she seemed shy.

"Let's explore the rest of the ship," Mattias said.

The four of them agreed, and before long they found a climbing wall. Riley jumped onto it and scampered to the top while the others worked their way up only a couple of handholds. When Riley came down, they located a wave surfing machine, a carousel, and a whole slew of different restaurants – tacos, pizzas, fancy French, even Chinese food. They talked about foods they loved and especially those they hated, from lima beans to liver to coconut to broccoli.

Just when Mae was beginning to feel really guilty about ignoring Selectra's assignment, Riley said, "Mattias, we really need to go."

"Wait, are your parents expecting you somewhere?" Clinton asked.

Mattias shook his head. "No, it's a sort of job — more like some special homework — it's just this thing we have to do." Riley kicked his foot, and Mattias sealed his lips and nodded, smiling, as if he'd just given a speech and people were clapping.

"See you later," Riley said, and the two of them slipped away.

Clinton turned away from the departing pair and clapped his hands together just the way their teacher did when it was time for a new topic. "Right," said Clinton. "Time for our first trip, wouldn't you say?"

"Erm," May said. "Uh, that is, what if the X-PA brings us back to where the ship was when we left it instead of where it is when we come back?"

"Yikes," Clinton said. "No, I'm sure it wouldn't do that."

"How can you be sure?" Mae asked.

"Well, Selectra's careful. She cares about us. She would never ..." Clinton's voice trailed off, and Mae knew he was thinking about times when Selectra had made some scary mistakes. She was a great guide, but she was also a little careless, and they knew she'd only recently made her way back off of probation.

Then Clinton perked up. "Don't worry. Time travel is instantaneous. We'll come back the moment we left. The ship won't have moved anywhere at all."

Mae let out her breath. "You're right. Stupid me. I scared myself there."

Clinton shook his head. "That was a scary thought. Now, who do we visit?" He pulled out the X-PA, and Mae looked over his shoulder as he scrolled through the names. "John Snow. Brr, sounds too cold. How about this one, in Paris? Nicolas Appert. Mmm, Paris, French food. Let's try there."

Mae stood close to Clinton as he waved the X-PA in a figure eight around them and then pushed the button. Immediately a spinning sensation took hold of her, and she seemed to see the ship shrinking away on the ocean below. She closed her eyes.

When Mae stopped spinning, she breathed in the scent of someone cooking soup. Clinton's voice said, "French, French, where is the button?"

She opened her eyes and saw a man with his back to them leaning over a large, steaming pot. He wore a soft cloth hat and a long coat in spite of the steamy heat of the room. At his elbow stood a row of jars made of dark glass.

"Excuse me," Mae said, except that the X-PA made the words come out "Pardonnez-moi."

The man turned and looked them up and down. His thin nose twitched. "What do you want?"

"Ah, monsieur, we are looking for Nicolas Appert," Clinton said. "We want to learn about his method of preserving food."

"Is the Emperor Bonaparte sending children to inspect my invention? I am Appert. Do you want to see how I won the prize money?" the man asked.

"We weren't sent by anyone," Mae said. "We're just curious about what you're doing with these foods. They smell delicious."

"I told the military that my factory will be ready soon and we will be making jars of food for them," Appert said, pointing to the steaming pot. "Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte has said that an army marches on its stomach, and my new factory will provide the food for those stomachs."

He turned back to Mae and Clinton and explained, "See, we put food such as stew in glass jars and seal them carefully and then put the jars in boiling water for many hours. After that, the stew will last for months, sitting on a shelf or in an army cart."

"But why do you have to boil them?" Clinton asked. "Isn't the stew already hot when you put it in the jars?"

Appert frowned. "I don't know why it works, but I've experimented with fruits and stews and soups and they all stay fresh and good if prepared by this method. That's how I won the prize — 12,000 francs after fourteen years of experiments."


Excerpted from The Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest by Peter Wong, Pendred Noyce, Yu-Yu Chin. Copyright © 2015 Peter Wong and Pendred Noyce. Excerpted by permission of Tumblehome Learning, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 Cruise Ship Departs Miami Saturday,
Chapter 2 Nicholas Appert and Bottled Food Paris, France, 1812, Saturday,
Chapter 3 Dinner at the Captain's Restaurant Saturday,
Chapter 4 Cooking Contest, Round One Sunday,
Chapter 5 John Snow and the Pump Handle London, 1854, Sunday,
Chapter 6 Growing and Staining Microbes Sunday,
Chapter 7 Clarence Birdseye and Frozen Fish San Juan, Puerto Rico and Labrador, Canada, 1914, Monday,
Chapter 8 Sara Josephine Baker and Mary Mallon New York City, New York, 1907, Monday,
Chapter 9 Percy Spencer and Microwaves Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1942, Monday,
Chapter 10 CDC and Second Outbreak Atlanta, Georgia, 2014, Tuesday,
Chapter 11 Time Course and Dot Maps Tuesday Chapter 12 Ferran Adrià and Creative Cooking Barcelona, Spain, 2009, Wednesday,
Chapter 13 Identifying the Suspects Wednesday,
Chapter 14 Tailing the Suspects Thursday,
Chapter 15 Helicopter Delivery and Hurricane Meals Thursday,
Chapter 16 U.S. Army Research Center and Bio-Detection Natick, Massachusetts, Thursday,
Chapter 17 Midnight Buffet Thursday to Friday,

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