But that's not all. PACK EXPO exhibitors and PMMI volunteers and staff saw to it that the students were engaged, too. Tours of the show, led by PMMI past chairmen, gave students the benefit of the industry veterans' first-hand knowledge.
And then there were the competitions.
B&R Industrial Automation sponsored the fourth annual PMMI Student Packaging Contest, which challenged students to come up with a food-safety compliant weighing, bagging and case-packing solution for a fictional snack food manufacturer. In their quest, the students experienced the strength of PACK EXPO, reasearching solutions and interacting with leading manufacturers.
First place ($4,000 in scholarship funds, shared among team members) went to the University of Florida team —students Gaby Cruz, Colleen Delaney, Michael Grandinetti and Alex Tipton (advisor Dr. Bruce Welt). The University of Wisconsin — Stout team received second place, sharing $2,000 in scholarship funds, as third-place winner, Cal Poly State University, shares $1,000 in scholarship funds. The other participating schools were Purdue University at Calumet; Rutgers University; San Jose State University; and Conestoga College.
Marc Ostertag, CEO of sponsor B&R, presented the winners during the Packaging Hall of Fame Reception and Induction Ceremony. The announcement juxtaposed these up-and-coming packaging leaders with recipients of the most prestigious honor in packaging. The Packaging Hall of Fame Class of 2012 is: Curtis Babb, MillerCoors (retired); Thomas Brady, Plastic Technologies, Inc. (PTI); Thomas Dunn, Flexpacknology LLC; Fred Hayes, Hayes & Associates Inc.; Hershey and Bernie Lerner, Automated Packaging Systems; and Nick Wilson, Morrison Container Handling Solutions.
On a lighter, and equally competitive, note the Amazing Packaging Race sent student teams to the four corners of the exposition to earn points by completing challenge tasks at any of the nearly 30 participating exhibitors.
The winning team — Alexandra Hills, Rochester Institute of Technology; Florin Mustata, Purdue University — Calumet; Stephen Suba, San Jose State University, and Dillon Quist, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College — received the grand prize, an Apple iPad for each team member. ASCO Numatics sponsored The Amazing Packaging Race for the second year. By assigning teams without regard to school affiliation, PMMI gave students an opportunity to network with peers from other programs.
PACK EXPO also introduced high school robotics teams from the 2012 FIRST Robotics competition to the show.
The students demonstrated the robots they conceived, designed and built for the 2012 contest at the "Future Innovators — Robotics Showcase," sponsored by Massman Automation Designs LLC and Siemens. It was another PACK EXPO "first," and launched a PMMI initiative to expose high school students to packaging and processing as potential career choices.
Education & Workforce Development Committee Chairman Jeff Bigger, president and owner of Massman Automation, sees more than one benefit to the program, which launches a new PMMI initiative to reach out to high school students to expose them to packaging and processing as a potential career choice.
"To keep our industry strong, we need to continuously bring in fresh ideas and thinking – and high school is a perfect place to start. There's so much room for innovation and problem-solving in the packaging and processing area, and these students are the best in the country at doing just that," Bigger says.
Dorner Mfg., Flexicell, the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Consortium (Aagard, Douglas, ITW Heartland and Massman) and Pearson Packaging Systems supported student teams from their local areas. Image: FIRST Robotics