Engineering prowess at PACK EXPO


Max Beitzel, asst. features editor

A common misconception many students hold for engineering classes is that it is all hammers and nails, senior Sam Kleiner, Engineering Club member, explained. On Oct 26, Engineering Club, using the Makerspace and 3D printers, competed and succeeded  in PACK EXPO, a packaging exposition displaying engineering success, Kleiner explained.

PACK EXPO is a manufacturing and packaging exposition for companies and interest groups to display their engineered machines for large corporations, Justin Zummo, Engineering Teacher and Engineering Club Sponsor, explained. The exposition is hosted on a yearly cycle between Chicago, IL and Las Vegas, NV, and each competitor is required to complete a yearly “Impact Challenge”. 

For PACK EXPO 2022, the “Impact Challenge” assigned to contestants was to create a packaging machine that places marbles into containers as efficiently and accurately as possible, Zummo explained. 

“[Another aspect] of [the challenge], was ‘Why are you bottling marbles?’” Zummo said. “[We needed to] come up with a product that you would sell this bottle of marbles with.”

With the team’s $800 budget, the Engineering Club used their packaged marbles for a game they created titled Boba Splash, Zummo explained. Boba Splash is a game similar to Kerplunk in which they have a cylinder and sticks in the playing area and players stack their marbles on the sticks, Zummo explained. Players take turns pulling sticks until marbles fall down, and the player that pulled the final stick loses, Zummo explained.

“[The Engineering Club worked] on the aesthetics for [Boba Splash],” Zummo said. “It’s a whole separate part of this competition.”

South gained the opportunity to compete alongside large companies during PACK EXPO 2021 in Las Vegas, Zummo explained. As a senior, 2022 alum Costa Aralis presented a machine that automatically laminates business cards with a robotic arm. Zummo believes the job opportunities provided to Aralis after his participation in the competition illustrated that high schoolers can succeed in an exposition such as PACK EXPO.

“We [entered PACK EXPO] because it is [different than] what we have done in class [before],” Zummo said. “This is the next level. This is industry-standard [engineering].”

Senior Norbert Zarski believes skills taught in his engineering classes prepared him and his peers well for this competition. Additionally, Zarski noted the experience strengthened the Engineering Club’s teamwork abilities.

“The main thing [we learned from the exposition] is that patience is key,” Zarski said. “Something might not work the first [time], so [we] attack it until it finally does work.”

Zarski values the experience Engineering Club has had throughout the design and building process. For Engineering Club members, the process was long and demanding, but ultimately rewarding, Zarski explained. Zarski explained that he looks forward to the opportunities and openings this experience will provide. 

“[PACK EXPO was] a nice experience that not a lot of schools have,” Zarski said. “[It was] an opportunity for us to develop our portfolio and it [gave] us that expertise to put into the workforce.”

Engineering Club placed second overall for Best in Show and third place in the Sales and Marketing category, Zummo said. Kleiner believes this success is due to the collaboration and long-lasting friendships developed through many years of working together. The success and positive experiences Engineering Club members had while working on the marble sorting machine for PACK EXPO further strengthened the bond members had with each other, Kleiner explained.

“We [knew] that we [had] to get work done, but it [was] not a boring work environment at all,” Kleiner said. “We have a lot of fun. That’s definitely something that’s made the project as great as it is.”