Educational inspiration can come from a variety of sources. In January of this year, the devastating earthquake in Haiti influenced a challenge to Technology students to design long-term, temporary housing for those who have lost their shelter.
Sponsored by the Department of Building Construction Management, the challenge asks student teams to design simple structures that allow for easy manufacturing, construction, and shipping.
While the challenge was devised to provide real-world experience and response to a natural disaster, students also gain a broader knowledge of responding in a time of need.
“We have talked about using our labs over the summer to develop prototypes of temporary housing for disaster relief efforts,” said Robert Cox, department head and professor of building construction management.
After the Haitian earthquake, Cox realized he could harness students’ willingness to assist in relief efforts into a learning tool with practical results.
“My goal is to change our focus to the bigger picture while having students develop creative responses, in interdisciplinary teams, to this problem of housing relief in post-disaster phases,” Cox said.
Teams are required to include at least six students from the College of Technology; they were encouraged to include a graduate student as well. More than 100 students are participating in the challenge on 16 teams. Half of the team members are BCM students; the rest are from a variety of Technology and Engineering disciplines.
Kip Goulder, a junior building construction management major, is co-captain of one of the teams.
“This is a good chance to come up with an idea that potentially could be used around the world during times of disaster,” he said. “It’s also a great experience on a personal level, to see how things are designed and to prepare a proposal.”
The interdisciplinary nature of the teams also allows members to gain a better understanding about the valuable roles of non-construction majors, Goulder said.
Emily Dyrek, also a junior building construction management major, is participating on another team. She is looking forward to the challenge.
“This will be a hands-on experience totally different than what we would learn in the classroom,” she said. “We must adapt to the means and methods of the way things are done in Haiti.
The first and second place teams will receive funding to build their prototypes in April of 2010. Funding for building the prototypes comes from Anning-Johnson and Skanska.
All entries must achieve several objectives:
- include space for living, sleeping, food preparation, and basic human sanitation
- support mass production of a self-contained product to be erected on site
- require little to no formal training to build
- be sustainable, including the use of durable materials and options for relocation and reuse
- include lightweight and durable roof structures
- be able to be packaged and shipped to required locations.
“We hope to seek a new topic next year and repeat this process,” Cox says. “Our hope is to take the lessons learned and broaden the competition to encourage more participation and, eventually, make it a campuswide effort.”
Check the College of Technology Web site for updates of the competition as finalists are announced March 22 and the teams begin building their structures in April.
Read coverage of the competition from Purdue Today.