InTents June/July 2020 - 35

creating openings for moisture to get in."
He also credits the fabric's strength and
impermeability to their success.
"We don't have classes on fabric,
so the practical experience students
receive through this competition is
huge. It's pushing them to learn about
an entire new ϐield and understand
terms like warp and weft and high
versus low density," Dittenber says. "I
encourage them to explore and do lots
of research. They search manufacturers'
websites and call them to get samples
and recommendations. There are more
options than ever now, and it's eyeopening for them to see that diversity.
They get to become competent in
something new and have a chance to see
their ideas become a reality attached to
something that has meaning."

MAKING CONNECTIONS
Though none of the shelters have been
adapted for use by an aid organization,
Terrill notes that the experience of
connecting classroom learning to
the physical application of materials
"gives a realism to the competition."
Connecting with industry experts
and organizations is another beneϐit.
Teams typically spend downtime
picking their judges' brains about
the industry or how to improve their
designs. "We are educating them in a

whole other world they never thought
about before and helping to broaden
their perspectives," Weaver says.
These connections can also lead to
internship or ϐield positions. Even if
they don't, there's value in building
a network of contacts. A former
participant recently reached out to
Weaver for insight into joining an
international development organization.
"I just got on the phone with him for
an hour and offered guidance as we
talked through the options he and his
wife are exploring," says Weaver.
This participant is not alone in
his desire to apply the technical
skills this competition enhances to
making a meaningful difference. "I've
always had a heart for wanting to help
those in need through engineering, and
a lot of our students have that same
mind-set and are looking for ways to
use their skills in a way to serve others,"
Dittenber says. "This competition helps
them see how that's possible."

UPPER PHOTO: LeTourneau University
students won the 2019 competition, which
centered on people who lost their homes
to Hurricane Irma in Barbuda in 2017. Each
shelter was designed to accommodate a
family of four in an environment with no
power or running water, span at least 151
square feet, and be attractive, upgradable
and portable.
LOWER PHOTO: Shelters undergo the wind
test as the grand finale. Nicknamed "the Wolf,"
the wind machine maxes out at 130 mph.
Though LeTourneau University's 2019 unit
(pictured) didn't stand up to 130 mph, its 2018
prototype did.

Holly Eamon is a business writer and editor
based in Minneapolis, Minn.

EDITOR'S NOTE
The Disaster Shelter Competition is usually
held each year in April. Unfortunately,
the 2020 competition was canceled, but
John Brown University plans to resume the
competition in 2021.
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