This Year’s PepsiCo/SWE Student Engineering Challenge

For 2019's program, students will have the opportunity to respond to a challenge stemming from one of three topics: eCommerce, Zero Waste or Process Optimization.

Get Ready for the PepsiCo SWE Student Engineering Challenge

PepsiCo and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) are teaming up again this year for the 2019 Student Engineering Challenge. For this year’s program, students will have the opportunity to respond to a challenge stemming from one of three topics: eCommerce, Zero Waste or Process Optimization. This allows students to dive deeper into a topic that not only interests them, but also challenges them to solve a real-world problem that PepsiCo faces.

Now through July 5, 2019, undergraduate teams comprised of up to four participants are encouraged to participate in the PepsiCo/SWE Student Engineering Challenge by responding to one of the three following challenges.


The Challenges:

1. eCommerce

Consumers have embraced online shopping thanks to its convenience and value. The eCommerce supply chain is four times longer than that of conventional stores, however, which means many products require additional packaging for extra protection at a higher cost. Typically, only high-value and lightweight items like electronics can absorb the higher cost. Yet, there is an increasing demand for food and beverage products in eCommerce that are typically bulky and/or heavy, creating a challenge to deliver products at lower costs.

Challenge: PepsiCo and SWE challenge you to present a comprehensive solution for a food and/or beverage offering in eCommerce (i.e. product, packaging, supply chain, business model etc.).


2. Zero Waste

PepsiCo is committed to minimizing its impact on the environment. This includes making every effort to reuse materials in productive ways. For example, PepsiCo provides organic matter, such as potato peels, to farms, where they are used in animal feed. Additionally, the Quaker facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, sells oat hulls to the University of Iowa, which converts the hulls into energy, replacing fossil fuels and supporting the University’s renewable energy program. In that spirit of sustainability, Tropicana, another division of PepsiCo, is looking to identify ways to maximize value from the orange peels that remain after juice is extracted.

Challenge: Processing Tropicana orange juice generates a significant amount of orange peels, which can be made into a variety of byproducts. Design a process to extract more value from the 1 million pounds of orange peels produced each day. Identify both the final product and the processes required to obtain the product.


3. Process Optimization

Food for Good (FFG) is a purpose-driven initiative within the PepsiCo Foundation that tackles child hunger by making healthy food more physically and financially accessible for low-income families. FFG uses PepsiCo’s expertise in taste, nutrition and distribution – leveraging the country’s largest food-moving fleet – to reach underserved families across the United States, with nutritious meals during summer and after-school. As FFG expands, it faces physical and logistical limitations that will need to be unlocked to ensure sustainable growth.

Challenge: Cold meals are distributed in individual packages in a plastic bag by a meal caterer and then placed in an Orbis tote lined with proprietary insulating material. After delivery, they are returned to the warehouse where the drivers do a quick inspection and set aside totes that need cleaning or have a noticeable odor. Some of the lunches can get damaged and contents may spill into the totes; the culprit is often a leaking milk box. Boxes can also accumulate dirt. The cleaning process consists of spraying a liquid cleaner/disinfectant and a towel wipe-down, but the process is not consistent, only partially effective in eliminating unwanted odors and very time-consuming. With those challenges in mind, identify a better way (technology, materials or process) to improve cleaning output and efficacy. Any proposed cleaning agents and materials should adhere to FDA Good Manufacturing Practices.


PepsiCo logo

For more information on how you can improve PepsiCo and the planet, as well as how to register, go to  Also be sure to check out SWE’s podcast with PepsiCo chemical engineer, Crea Kitcher!

To create your own story about the 2019 Student Engineering Challenge or learn more about SWE’s involvement with the challenge, check out PepsiCo’s press release.

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