Indiana State University Newsroom

Students submit designs for national packaging competition

May 18, 2015

As part of a national packaging competition with a tailgate party theme, Indiana State University students came up with designs for snacking in style ranging from a pickup truck to a football-shaped box.

Students in a packaging engineering technology class were given simple instructions: Create a package that can hold two bags of tortilla chips, six glass bottles of soda and salsa. Attention was paid to sustainability and points were given for creativity-on which the Indiana State students delivered.

Three teams presented their projects, slated for entry in the 2015 Student Packaging Design Competition, hosted by the Association of Independent Corrugated Converters. Projects were built to the category "Design to an Opportunity," which asked for students "to create a ‘Tailgate Party/Snack' kit to be sent to your university alumni promoting the school for ‘homecoming' weekend." Projects must also be visually captivating and have the structural integrity to survive courier delivery.

The first team consisted of senior packaging engineering technology majors Niles Meschen, Francisco Nino and Jack Pierce, junior Sara Young and Nasser Alirq, a junior technology management student minoring in packaging. Team One's priority was in function.


"We kind of streamlined it and made it into a box that would be functional and easy to handle," said Pierce.

The package was an updated version of the classic cube, featuring tear strips to secure items until tailgating time. The two bags of tortilla chips were positioned on either side of the box to act as "air bags", explained Meschen, further protecting the glass items inside, which were then separated from each other by durable cardboard.

"I think simple is better," said Young. "It's better to not reinvent the wheel. Just stick to something that has been done and enhance it to fit your needs."

The second group's approach to the challenge was more complex, but undeniably fun.

"This is what we call the Sycamore Snack Truck," said Jake Tucker, who presented the team's cardboard truck. The team's goal was to mesh creativity with competition requirements, focusing on ease of use.

"We tried to add as much ease-of-use to it as possible," Cody Jones said. "The back opens like a tailgate, then there's a tray that comes out with the chips in it. And then there's a viewing window on the box so you can see the chips, or the ‘product'. And then the top opens, and inside, we put our six-pack of (cola) with a foam cooler. We made holes in the foam to fit each bottle."

The foam would prevent the glass bottles from moving around within the package, added Tucker, who showed the audience the milled-out sections in the top piece of foam that would also secure the bottles from above.The team also popped the "hood" of their truck to display a jar of salsa, secured in a milled holder, and a small, pre-made bowl in which to pour the salsa.

Teammates Carson Manke and Jooyeon Kim were responsible for the painting and printed elements of the truck, aiming for a clean, simple look.

All teams were required to write step-by-step instructions for assembly of their projects. According to student Khalid Alsaleem, the team's biggest manufacturing difficulty was finding a machine to mill out the foam. The team estimated that if the graphics were entirely printed, and with premade standards for each part of the package, several boxes could be made in a day.

The group's project had three different packaging materials and components, Tucker said, so it was a constructive challenge to incorporate those components together.

"We had some flexible packaging, some more rigid-so it was kind of cool to try to be creative and accommodate all three different things we had to have in there," he said.

The third group-Brian Thompson, Brett Ingram, Garrett Modesitt, Jarrid Gough, and Ali Alatal-decided to play around with geometric shapes before settling on an elongated octagon structure that is very strong, with the added bonus of somewhat resembling a football. The team shied away from precise dimensions, simply wanting to test if the structure would work. After creating a prototype that was too small, the team re-created their project on a larger scale to accommodate the snacks.

Ingram said the experiment produced great results, allowing more hands-on experience with such tools as computer aided drafting. The project also tested the students' problem-solving skills, such as when creating prototypes, and helped the students communicate better to stay organized and on track. Students said the project taught them to exercise creativity when faced with important limits.

"We were presented with the foods we needed to have and we could build a box around it any way we wanted," said Nino. "Just having the design freedom to do that taught us a lot in terms of how we should go about it."

According to Marion Schafer, professor of applied engineering and technology management, this year was the first in recent years where students were encouraged to submit projects for the competition, and the students unanimously decided future classes should have the same opportunity.

Tucker felt that the project was beneficial in that "it really makes you able to have a product that is your own, that you created."

Overall, Schafer was pleased with the outcome.

"[The projects] may need some tweaking, but you can say that about any box made in here--that's why packaging engineers are in demand. They have the ability to make these changes and add creativity with engineering knowledge to make it structurally sound at the same time."

Photo: -Indiana State University students (from left) Jooyeon Kim, Khalid Alsaleem, Cody Jones, Jake Tucker and Carson Manki, discuss their "Sycamore Snack Truck" entry in the Association of Independent Corrugated Converters Student Packaging Design Competition. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Photo: - Jack Pierce (left), Niles Meschen, Sara Young, Franki Nino and Nasser Alirg present their design for the 2015 Association of Independent Corrugated Converters Student Packaging Design Competition.

Photo: - Indiana State University students (from left) Brett Ingrum, Garrett Modesitt, Brian Thompson, Ali Alatal and Jarred Gough present their entry in the 2015 Association of Independent Corrugated Converters Student Packaging Design Competition.

Contact: Marion Schafer, professor, applied engineering and technology management, College of Technology, Indiana State University, 812-237-3352 or

Writer: Kristen Kilker, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3773 or