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Students design, build shelter for Syrian refugees

March 10, 2014 1:15PM

Students Wesley Childers (left) and Kyle Grimes work on the refugee shelter that will be entered into the 2014 World Vision/John Brown University Disaster Shelter Design Competition.

With prospects of a quick end to the Syrian civil war dim, it seems likely that for the foreseeable future, thousands of Syrians will continue to flee their war-torn country for refugee camps on the border. Some Pittsburg State University students are working on a design that could one day provide shelter for these and other refugees around the world.

As part of a competition through John Brown University, students in the PSU School of Construction are designing a shelter that would house families in Syrian and other refugee camps.

The 2014 World Vision/John Brown University Disaster Shelter Design Competition challenges students from across the country to design and construct a rapidly deployable transitional disaster shelter that would “meet the needs of a typical Syrian family who are seeking refuge in one of the numerous border camps dotted along the Syrian border in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.”

This is the first year Pittsburg State students have competed in the event, and they are excited for the challenge. 

“It’s an awesome competition to be a part of,” senior Austin Leake said. “It’s exciting to know that something that is designed by Pitt State students could end up helping families who are trying to survive war in their home country.”

The students are in the design phase of the project and are expected to begin construction of their shelter this week. Assistant Professor Norman Philipp said the competition challenges students to go through all aspects of a construction project.

“Students in our program are often taught, and taught well, how to build something,” he said. “They leave here knowing everything there is to know about the construction phase of a project. What’s great about this competition is that it also puts them through the design phase. It opens up their creative nature.”

The competition will take place April 24-26 at John Brown University in Siloam Spring, Ark. The team will be tasked with rapidly constructing the shelter, after which it will be put through various durability tests.

“Then, John Brown University students will sleep in them for a night to see if they would really work for a family,” Leake said.

The winning team will receive a $1,000 prize, and their design will be given to World Vision to use to build more shelters for the Syrian refugees.

For more information about the competition, visit 

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