Packaging Engineering Students Spar Their Skills in Grueling Competition

This past month in the 48-Hour Repack, Rutgers Packaging Engineering Program students competed with students across the country to solve a specific packaging problem in 48 hours by designing, creating, printing and assembling an innovative package.

The competition challenges them to work under intense pressure, iron out differences in their team dynamic and employ various engineering techniques.

Given the options of redesigning a syrup, egg, coffee or bacon container, student teams had to reinvent a more user and eco-friendly design and make a short film pitching the idea as an engineer would in a workplace setting.

The Rutgers Packaging team, comprised of seven packaging engineering students, immediately went to the drawing sifting through their ideas. The members included: Brandon Williams, Irina Limaico, Damen Soriente, William Kim, Mackenzie Mickel and Miles Borgeson.

According to Soriente, a Packaging Engineering junior, the main issue was solidifying their game plan.

“One of the harder parts was figuring out what we wanted to do and agreeing on it as a group. We are cooperating within only 48 hours to do this.”

Once they chose to reinvent a coffee creamer package, they did not lose time brainstorming a primary package and a secondary package.

“A package like soy sauce gets on everything- and normal creamers- they spill when you rip them open. We wanted it to be user friendly- a pouch with a spout on it and we put the perforated tear on the top,” says Borgeson, a Packaging Engineering junior.

Borgeson is finishing his junior year of packaging engineering and also employed as an R & D scientist at Mars Chocolate.

Reflecting on the energy and tension of the first night, he said that pitching their ideas was the most difficult part of the challenge, just like it would be for a professional packaging engineer.

“If you have a great idea but can’t sell it, it’ll fail.”

Solid Works model of the primary package

Their primary package was a container for the creamer - a stand-up pouch. The secondary package was the box carton for which they made a die layout commonly used in the packaging industry.

To effectively create a primary and secondary packaging in a timely manner, the team split up.

Kim drew the layout on CAD and other team members created artwork to place over it. Once the file was created, they sent it to FedEx to print the CAD design on poster board.

In order to create a market appeal, they printed stickers from a label-maker to decorate the package.

For the primary package, Mackenzie and Soriente made a Solid Works drawing. Then, using a 3-D printer in the Packaging Engineering laboratory, they printed the drawing.

Final design for the primary package

Before shooting the short video, Williams ran a Life Cycle Assessment Analysis on their package to test the sustainability aspects of their box and pouch. They used a program called Smart Pack, which they learned in their Packaging Sustainability class.

A Life Cycle Assesment tells a packaging engineer how eco-friendly the design is.

By the time the design was created and completed, it was Sunday morning and time was closing in, but the team still had to write the script and shoot the video.

“None of us had even edited a video before and we did it in an hour and a half,” said Borgeson.

As crunch time approached, the team met one last barrier: submitting the project. For 45 minutes, they struggled to correctly input into the server.

Soriente describes the tension they experienced. “Everything we had done in the last 48 hours would have been for nothing.”

“There was not a lot we could do: we had trouble with the server platform,” adds Borgeson.

In the last 5 minutes before the deadline, they were able to correctly login and upload the project.

“We all cheered- the entire room cheered and then we kind of sat down, relaxed and rejoiced,” remembers Borgeson.

A Life Cycle Assesment tells a packaging engineer how eco-friendly the design is.

While such high tension environments are not so common in a packaging engineering office, the innovation, creativity and teamwork cohesion needed for this project are. The 48-Hour repack helps student prepare for what the real world is like as engineers.

Dr Hae Chang Gea, Director of the Rutgers Packaging Engineering Program, said “These students are very self-motivated. They have 2-3 years of engineering intensive classes and we are so glad to see them take the initiative in competing. We are very proud of them.”

By: Andrea Morocoima