T.O. Plastics Assists Students in First Lego League Competition

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Custom thermoformer provides advice in team’s quest to design a reusable pizza box

OTSEGO, Minn. (February 5, 2016) – Custom thermoformer T.O. Plastics gave an assist to a group of students participating in the First LEGO League (FLL) competition, a science and robotics program that challenges students to develop technology solutions for real-world problems.

The seven homeschooled students, representing the FLL Minions, toured T.O. Plastics’ Otsego plant on Jan. 28 to learn how thermoformed plastic packaging is produced as they work on their FLL project to develop a reusable pizza box.

The visit enabled the students, ages 9-14, from Elk River, Nowthen and the Big Lake area in Sherburne County, to learn what types of plastic could be used to keep the pizza warm without melting the container as well as the tooling design and production process.

The FLL Minions team, which has advanced to the state tournament for its solution to this year’s trash challenge, said they identified reusable pizza boxes as a valid project based on the significant number discarded each year (approximately 3 billion).

“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 Beth Balmanno, one of the team’s adult coaches.

“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 President Mike Vallafskey.

In addition to visiting T.O. Plastics, the FLL Minions reached out to local pizza shop owners, the FDA and Sherburne County Health Department, Scott Wiener—a pizza expert and pizza tour guide in New York City, and more than 1,700 pizza customers via an online, worldwide survey.

The FLL Minions advanced through sectional and regional tournaments and will now compete against 69 other Minnesota teams in the state tournament. The students said they hope to engage local city officials in Elk River to support their efforts to develop their reusable pizza boxes.