HCC ET Students & Educators Learn about Revolutionary Technologies in Packaging Solutions at Largest International PACK EXPO

The world of packaging has come a long way. From the unsavory wraps to bulky boxes of yesteryears, the packaging industry has evolved into a high-tech billion dollar industry with many manufacturers vying to get ahead of the game while incorporating lean, green, clean and efficient technologies into their everyday production processes. A testament of this booming industry was on full display at the 2018 PACK EXPO International. The Expo was held in October in Chicago and was “THE” hotspot for all engaged in the latest and greatest packaging solutions. In a  press release issued by PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, who was also the host/producer of PACK EXPO, dubbed the event as “the largest EXPO” hosted for and by the packaging industry.

The EXPO brought together 2,500 exhibitors and 50,000 attendees and gave exhibitors and attendees a chance to witness the latest innovations and learn about production challenges in the packaging industry. Jadaly Castro Morale, Haley Fretto, Wesley Tanner and Richard Wilson, students pursuing an A.S degree in Engineering Technology at Hillsborough Community College (HCC), were jointly sponsored by FLATE and PMMI to attend the PACK EXPO this year. The four students along with Shirley Dobbins and Ron Smith, professors of Engineering Technology related courses at HCC, attended the EXPO to get a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of the complex manufacturing processes and technologies involved in making packaging solutions a dynamic enterprise.

The four-day EXPO offered an unparalleled experience for the four HCC students as they attended panel discussions, forums, explored display booths and met with industry experts. The size of the Expo was astounding said Wesley Tanner who learned about different types of robots and how they are used in manufacturing. Tanner also learned about the techniques and tools used by manufacturers and participated in an experiment demonstrating how people react to packaging. The PACK EXPO was also a rewarding experience for professors Shirley Dobbins and Ron Smith. “The understanding of the areas of opportunities for our students in packaging was greatly enlarged,” said Dobbins. They were also able to connect with Florida companies attending the EXPO and are currently working on establishing an internship program for HCC students with one of the companies they met at the EXPO. Besides the exhibits, HCC faculty and students also attended the “Innovation Stages” session presented by industry leaders and subject matter experts. “Seeing the different sizes, types, and capabilities of the robots was a great experience for me,” said Jadaly Castro.

The highlight of the Expo for students came during the adrenaline spurring “Amazing Packaging Race.” Modeled after the popular TV show, participants were challenged to complete various challenges that ranged from simple tasks like counting the number of logos on a sign, to clicking selfies with the PMMI Vice President, answering a question on Twitter about the EXPO, visiting as many booths as possible, solving complex mathematical problems, or even completing rudimentary tasks like racing to load the machinery by taking cellophane paper and feeding it through the notches faster than the previous group. “I am very thankful to FLATE and PMMI for being given this opportunity to learn so much. I will definitely never forget this experience” Castro stated.

Given the prominent roles women are increasingly assuming in the workplace and across the manufacturing industry, Jadaly Castro and Haley Fretto also attended the Women's Leadership breakfast meeting. More than 550 industry professionals attended the breakfast event featuring an invigorating panel discussion moderated by Jane Chase, executive director at the Institute of Packing Professionals. “The Expo inspired me. I could see myself finding a niche in this field” said Fretto. Professor Dobbins was also encouraged to see the number of women in the packaging industry and the leadership roles they play. Listening to the empowering stories of women in manufacturing and seeing the wide range of industry jobs available, Dobbins noted students were encouraged in their pursuit of engineering technology. “I will now be able to advise my students of the plethora of opportunities available in the packaging industry and use of mechatronics in the healthcare packaging area as well,” Dobbins said.

Discussions captured insights from top brass in manufacturing and centered on strategies to empower women in manufacturing.  During the session, Castro and Fretto learned about challenges women encounter in the manufacturing industry, but more importantly about personal achievement and the coming of women in business. “As a woman, I found it very empowering,” Castro said. The Expo provided an effective platform for all students to gain real-world experiences as they look to embark on a career in manufacturing. For the educators, it was a great networking opportunity as they were able “to communicate with other educational institutions about their experiences in the engineering technology domain.”

FLATE is indeed proud to be part of the students' journeys as they explore educational and career pathways in manufacturing. For more information on the Expo visit https://www.packexpointernational.com. For information on FLATE and STEM-based resources for students and educators visit www.madeinflorida.org and contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org/813.259.6578.

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