U. engineering students win packaging expo

Four Rutgers University School of Engineering students put their skills to the test at an annual packaging trade show held from Sept. 23 to Sept. 25 in Las Vegas, Nev.

The team of packaging engineers — Miles Borgeson, Diane Jones, Diana Mayorga and Marie Misterio — designed the winning entry of the PACK EXPO 2013 Solutions Challenge.

The challenge asked six competing teams to create and present proposals for a fictional company’s packaging line, said Misterio, a School of Engineering senior.

She said this year the competing schools — Rutgers, California State Polytechnic University, Purdue University Calumet, the University of Florida and Virginia Tech — designed a packaging line for mouthwash bottles.

“[The competition] had us apply what we learned in the classroom and at our internships,” she said.

According to Misterio, the other schools spent a lot of money on the project, while the Rutgers team worked without any physical equipment. Rutgers does not have any packaging engineering laboratories.

Misterio and Jones, a School of Engineering senior, had attended the competition as sophomores in 2011, so she knew what to expect. Still, she said they were nervous when they arrived in Las Vegas.

“The packaging engineering program is really small. It was really intimidating to see how many resources other schools had,” Misterio said.

Of the six competing teams, only Rutgers sent students with engineering backgrounds.

“[Being engineers] really helped us with the research we had to do. It’s what we were taught to do,” she said.

Misterio said the team conducted most of their research without guidance from faculty.

To begin, Mayorga, a School of Engineering junior, said the teams contacted companies for guidelines on the types and sizes of machines they needed. They then visited some facilities to see the equipment firsthand.

Mayorga said their goal was to design a properly scaled, efficient and sanitary machinery line. Each machine in the line had to properly communicate with each other as well.

The team stayed in contact with the companies until the day of the competition. By then, the team had completed their proposal, but they wanted to keep their information as up-to-date as possible.

“Engineering is about careful attention to even the smallest details,” Mayorga said.

The six judges, who each came from different packaged-good companies, also judged the team on their ability to communicate their proposal. On top of designing the line, the team had to give an oral presentation and write a detailed proposal for the judges.

Mayorga said the overall experience was similar to that of an internship in the field of packaging engineering.

“The competition really reflected what working in industry is like,” she said.

Jones said the competition also gave the team the opportunity to network with companies’ representatives.

According to a PACK EXPO statement, this year’s trade show attracted more professionals than ever before. More than 27,500 processing and packaging professionals and 1,750 exhibitors attended the three-day show.

“The competition was not just about engineering, but professionalism too,” Jones said. “It’s opened up a lot of opportunities.”

The competition’s sponsor, B&R Industrial Automation, invited the team to tour their facility and present their winning design at their headquarters in Atlanta, Ga.

According to their online company profile, B&R Industrial Automation is one of the largest private automation equipment manufacturers. It currently has 162 offices housing over 2,300 employees worldwide.

In addition to more networking opportunities, Borgeson, a School of Engineering junior, said the team won a shared $4,000 scholarship from the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies Education and Training Foundation, a trade association representing 600 packaging and processing supply chain companies.

According to the PACK EXPO statement, Purdue University Calumet’s team earned $2,000 and Clemson University’s team won $1,000 as second and third-place winners.

All of the teams have also been entered into a new competition, the Design Gallery People’s Choice Awards, which allows attendees to vote for their favorite entries.

“[The win] is a good way to highlight our school’s program,” Borgeson said.

According to Borgeson, with more funding, the School of Engineering’s packaging engineering program could continue to excel and improve.

“If we won without any laboratories, imagine what we could do with them,” he said.

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