Students help homeless by creating temporary shelters in Ark. Tech design challenge

April 12, 2017

Students Design for Change, an Arkansas Tech University program, challenged high school students to explore issues of homelessness and poverty. On Friday, five of those teams displayed their designs for temporary homeless shelters on the ATU campus.


And who doesn’t like a challenge, especially when it’s for a good cause?

Of the more than 120 students throughout the Natural State submitted designs for temporary housing for the homeless, only five teams were selected to participate. All five were fantastic creations built by talented high schoolers and Arkansas Tech Assistant Professor Megan Toland was excited to see what students made for the homeless.

“It’s amazing how you can take four walls and make it so different in a variety of ways,” Toland said. “We encouraged them to do research and find out what their needs would be, put yourself in that situation, what would some of the needs be.”

She, along with other professors, worked throughout the year selecting designs from students that would offer the homeless a secure and innovative space for temporary living.

“The students were very creative,” Toland said. “To me, as I have been walking through them, it’s the little things that count.”

McKinley Green, a ninth grader at Arkadelphia High School, worked with students on team “Snirky.” They submitted and designed a small space they would be comfortable enough for a homeless person to live in.

“It’s insulated, so we have heating and we have a window back there for ventilation,” Green said.

She’s hoping their design will help after a 2016 study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development showed that close to 2,400 people are homeless and more than 800 are living without shelter.

“We got some of our linens at a local donation center called The Beehive in Arkadelphia,” Green said. “Special needs [people] run it, so we wanted to give back to our hometown.”

Green and her team worked together, putting necessary items inside like toiletries, an electric heater, and a futon.

“You can just lay it out whenever you’re ready to sleep,” Green said. “It sleeps two comfortably.”

Teachers said students walk away with knowing how to build, but even more bringing awareness to an issue they said should be addressed.

“To see their excitement and to see their involvement, their participation, the memories made, the lessons that they have learned, it was just a full experience in a variety of ways,” Toland said.

Each team received up to $1,000 to build the units. The winning team received $1,000. Half of that will be issued to the school and the remainder to the class who won first place. The units will eventually be donated to an organization working with the homeless.

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