2018 PLTW Engineering Design Competition: Packaging

Shreya Santhanagopalan, Rashi Kejriwal, and Caroline Kasuba are high school students in Maryland who take a great interest in engineering and are currently enrolled in the PLTW Engineering program to build and expand on their foundation of engineering. They are also members of Future Business Leaders of American and science Olympiad, which helps them expand their expertise in the STEM field. 

Our names are Shreya Santhanagopalan, Caroline Kasuba, and Rashi Kejriwal. We are students from Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City, Maryland. Recently, we participated in the 2018 PLTW Engineering Design Competition – made possible by Chevron and John Deere – and won first place in the nation.

Through this competition, we innovated and re-engineered materials to improve upon real-world challenges in packaging. We specifically studied the effects of internal packaging on soft envelope packages on the protectiveness of said packaging. We utilized different criteria to narrow down our concepts to the best final design. Some of these constraints included environmental impact, cost vs. quality, and overall effectiveness of the design. Our solution was a unique microhole foam, which was determined to be the best solution through a series of tests involving rigorous experimenting with certain variables and oscillation testing.

Through our journey in conducting and writing our research project, we also faced many challenges that affected our ability to determine our solution for the experiment and the proposed problem. One problem we faced was deciding on which solution would be the best, as all the concepts we generated seemed feasible. In order to solve this problem, we used a decision matrix to narrow down our solutions and rank the ideas. This was effective because it gave us the most probable and optimal solution for our overall problem of the internal packaging of soft envelope packages.

We also faced a challenge in determining what tests we should and could conduct for our experiment. We decided to go about this problem by referring to our research and compromising on what tests would be successful in choosing the solution. The final tests we chose included shaking the soft envelope package, applying weight, and engaging in many other simulations that were designed to represent the travel conditions of a real package.

One more problem we faced during our experimenting was determining the independent variable we would test as internal packaging. After a multitude of research, we decisively concluded to choose three primary sources of packaging and narrow each of the primary sources into two other specific types of packaging. Although we faced many challenges in our Innovation Portal and design competition experience, we were able to work as a team and compromise in order to overcome our challenges.

From the lessons in our PLTW Engineering classes, we learned many concepts and ideas that we used to create our experiment and solution. Different testing concepts like the decision matrices mentioned above helped our group clearly and quickly complete the project. Without our PLTW Engineering class experience, we would not have been able to complete the daunting task of the Innovation Portal project, and we are so grateful to our PLTW Engineering teachers, who laid the foundation for us to be able to complete this task.

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of each guest author.