Dordt students win design competition

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Dordt College students took first place in Disaster Shelter Design Competition

Dordt College construction management majors took first place in the John Brown University 6th Annual Disaster Shelter Design Competition, sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse International Relief, in April. The competition provides students with an opportunity to create practical solutions to real problems—like the current refugee crisis.

This is the second time in three years that Dordt has taken first place in the overall competition. The shelter also won the ease of assembly test by being able to build the structure in 50 minutes. They placed third in the Emergency Shelter construction, passed the high wind test, and they performed very well in the earthquake test. The competition this year was not without its own challenge of assembling the structures outside in the pouring rain and cooler temperatures.

This year’s competition scenario was based on the needs of displaced people and refugees currently fleeing to Greece from the Middle East. The shelters needed to be easily transported and constructed, spacious enough for a family of four, culturally appropriate for the given situation, support a year or longer of transitional living, and cost less than $1,500 to reproduce. A panel of judges evaluated the shelter designs for possible implementation in relief efforts worldwide. In addition to the shelter design, this year also included a Basic Temporary Camp Plan to design and develop a camp that could accommodate 5,000 people and provide areas for basic necessities (water, toilets, showers, cooking).

Seven teams from universities including Dordt College (Sioux Center, Iowa), Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, Kansas), Gyeongsang National University (Jinju, South Korea), two teams from Letourneau University (Longview, Texas), Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, California), and John Brown University (Siloam Springs, Arkansas) submitted preliminary shelter plans in November and presented their refined prototypes for durability tests on campus. Testing included earthquake sustainability, heat retention, rain test, overnight habitability, and wind resistance.

“This competition not only gives students excellent opportunities to develop management and construction skills, it also gives them an opportunity to find a creative solution to a real-world problem—making culturally appropriate shelters for people driven from their homes,” says Dordt College Professor of Engineering Joel Sikkema.

Dordt’s team was mentored by Adjunct Construction Management Instructor Shane Vander Kooi and is grateful to alumni and community members for the support they received in designing and constructing their shelter.