Students Wow in Packaging Machine Competition

Six teams of high-school students designed, assembled, and demonstrated filling machines to showcase their engineering and presentation skills.

John R. Henry

December 9, 2022

4 Slides

“Design and build a packaging machine from a kit of parts and some general guidelines.”

PMMI issued this PACK Challenge to six Chicago-area high schools as a new competition/feature for the 2022 Pack Expo International show. The students succeeded admirably, demonstrating levels of skill and creativity I would not have thought possible for their age and experience. Most were juniors and seniors, but some were 9th and 10th graders. They received the parts during the summer and had a couple months to design and assemble the systems before shipping them to the late-October show.

The machines were required to count 20 or 40 marbles, automatically, into bottles.

I spent an hour in the exhibit. I talked to each of the groups and their teachers. I had each machine explained and demoed to me. I am glad I was not a judge. I would have been hard pressed to pick any one of the six as best. They all were. (Click here for a list of winners.)


Skills go beyond machinery design.

Machine design and execution were only two of the skills on display. As the expression goes, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.” Some kids mumble and use a lot of umms, errs and likes. Not these. All the ones I talked to had good presentation skills. One, and if I remembered his name I’d give him a shout out, may have had the best presentation of the hundreds I heard in a week at Pack Expo.

So, a big salute the kids and their teachers and their accomplishments. They will go far in whatever field they choose.

And a big congratulations to the PMMI and its Kate Fioranti of the Workforce Development Team for making this happen, as well as the competition sponsor: PepsiCo. They deserve the support of everyone in the industry to expand the program and make it accessible to more students.

About the Author(s)

John R. Henry

Known as the Changeover Wizard, John R. Henry is the owner of, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He has written the book, literally, on packaging machinery ( and is the face and personality behind packaging detective KC Boxbottom, the main character in popular articles on the Packaging Digest website. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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