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The Pack Expo experience: from a packaging student's perspective

I attended my first Pack Expo show in Las Vegas when I was a sophomore. Wow, what a way to start my academic career!
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I was not only blown away by the size of Pack Expo, but also by the thought of how many opportunities the packaging industry will have to offer me. Now, entering my fifth year at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, I have followed up my first experience with two more trips to the Chicago show. Yet it never ceases to amaze me when I meander down the walkways and around the pavilions how huge an impact our “little known” industry has: cutting edge technology driving sustainability, whole packaging lines designed to run any product on the market today, new types of materials constructed to meet the toughest consumer need. These are just a few examples of the many exciting exhibits one can see.

As a student, the Pack Expo show breathes new life into our academic studies. Classes such as Packaging Machinery, Materials, and Package Development begin to add up when theories in the classroom are put into action right in front of your eyes. The ability for a student to walk down an aisle and see five of the same type of machines, to compare and contrast them, to fully understand the unique characteristics of them, is priceless. And interacting with the manufacturers of these machines allows an exclusive insight into why certain machinery is designed a particular way.

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Pack Expo also provides many other learning platforms for students. Along with its wide range of exhibits, it allows students to interact with industry on a professional level. Beginning to understand how to work in a professional environment can be a shock to some students when first entering the workforce. Pack Expo allows you to rub shoulders with the very people you may someday be working with; and in doing so, it allows you to sharpen your communication skills that will be so vital in the years to come. Also, starting to build professional relationships with industry personnel and even fellow students only makes the Pack Expo experience that much better.

With organizations such as IoPP to aid in the networking of students, Pack Expo allows students to meet others in their field of study. Along with the University of Wisconsin-Stout, packaging schools such as Michigan State University, California Polytechnic, and Clemson (just to name a few) were in attendance. To be able to interact with other students in your field of study gives insight into the curriculum and the culture of other packaging programs. Not only does this lead to friendly competition among students, but it will also lead to camaraderie that will carry on into our professional careers. I look forward in the years to come when I return to Pack Expo as an industry professional, seeing the very people that sat in the booths across from me in the always lively “Education Pavilion.” Today they are competition. In the near future they’ll be my colleagues.

So what is my perspective of Pack Expo from a student point of view? I believe Pack Expo not only exhibits the technology, machinery, and innovation seen today; but it also exhibits the people that make up this industry. From freshman with a clean-slate mentality to packaging veterans willing to convey their knowledge at the drop of a hat, Pack Expo is truly bringing the best of industry together under one roof.

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