On February 5th, 2016 seven homeschooled students ages 9 to 14 and an adult coach toured our plant in Otsego, Minnesota, to learn how thermoformed plastic packaging is produced. Calling themselves the FLL Minions, this team of students is participating in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition, a worldwide program that challenges students to research a real-world problem and to develop a solution by applying science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts.
This year's FLL challenge, called Trash Trek, is to identify a problem with the way trash is handled and learn about it. The FLL Minions decided to research how to reduce waste created by cardboard pizza boxes. They learned that pizza boxes create a lot of trash; 3 billion boxes are thrown away every year. And, in most places, they are not recyclable because they are contaminated by food and grease. Team members reached out to local pizza shop owners, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the County Health Department, a pizza expert and pizza tour guide in New York City, and more than 1,700 pizza customers via a worldwide online survey. "They wanted to find a way to continue to enjoy one of their favorite foods but decrease the carbon footprint related to using cardboard boxes," said one of the team's adult coaches. The FLL Minions' solution: reusable, recyclable pizza boxes.
Their visit to our Otesgo facility enabled the students to learn what types of plastic could be used to keep pizza warm without melting the container as well as the tooling design and production process."We were delighted to have this engaged group of students visit our facility to learn about the ways in which well-designed plastic products can help solve everyday problems," said T.O. Plastics President Mike Vallafskey. "We thought it was a good opportunity to give back to the community where we work."
The FLL Minions team advanced through sectional and regional tournaments and will compete against 69 other Minnesota teams in the state FLL tournament on February 20.The students said they hope to engage local officials to support their efforts to develop their reusable pizza boxes.
About FIRST LEGO League: In 1998 the founder of FIRST
(For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and the owner of the LEGO Group created FIRST LEGO League, a program that proposes a different problem each year to engage children in playful and meaningful learning. Guided by adult coaches, they use imagination as they create ideas, build, experiment, solve problems, and overcome obstacles. They develop critical thinking and team-building skills. Creatively presenting their solutions to judges develops presentation skills, all this while gaining confidence in their abilities to use technology in positive ways.