Cal Poly Students Win Paperboard Packaging Alliance Student Design Challenge

A team of Cal Poly students took first place at the Paperboard Packaging Alliance (PPA) Student Design Challenge. Cal Poly’s team won the competition after presenting its design to a panel of industry experts at PACKEXPO, held Sept. 28-30 in Las Vegas.

PPA challenged university teams from across the U.S. and Canada to create limited-edition, innovative toy packaging that could also be reused as an interactive structure with the toy. Cal Poly’s winning team came first out of 53 entries with a Star Wars light saber toy that extended and collapsed from the handle. The team also carefully considered price point, the target audience and efficient material usage in their marketing plan for the product.

The team included four students from Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business: business administration majors Alyssa Harben (Auburn) and Griffin Meinken (Windsor), economics major Michael Udinski (Pleasanton), and industrial technology major Austin Turner (Atherton). The team was awarded $5,000 in cash, along with a $5,000 gift to Cal Poly’s Packaging Program to improve student labs.

Cal Poly students developed their projects as part of an IT 408: Paper and Paperboard Packaging course taught by Javier de la Fuente, an assistant professor of packaging.

“This is the first time Cal Poly has taken the top spot in this challenge, facing very stiff competition,” de la Fuente said. “These projects really show the synergy between marketing and packaging, and I’m incredibly proud of all of our projects.”

Another team of Cal Poly students earned an honorable mention in the competition for their packaging design for a Lego Movie board game. The team included industrial technology majors Catlin Khamashta (Jackson) and Jonathan Molnar (San Diego), business administration majors Josephina Ma (Carson), Jennifer Block (La Jolla) and Trevor Smith (Orange), and art and design major Doug Huynh (San Jose).

Winners were chosen by a team of paperboard packaging industry professionals who rated submissions based on their response to the competition scenario, innovative structural and graphic design, functionality, and quality of the finished product.

For more information about the PPA Student Design Challenge, visit

Pictured: Griffin Meinken, Michael Udinski, Professor Javier de la Fuente, Alyssa Harben and Austin Turner at the PPA Student Design Challenge.