This past Friday and Saturday, IHAWKe students at the University of Kansas, came together at the NEST, to use human-centered design to build a life-sized, low fidelity tiny house for those left homeless by a hurricane. IHAWKe (Indigenous, Hispanic, African American, Women, KU Engineering) is the Diversity and Women’s Programs at KU that brings together AISES, NSBE, SHPE, and SWE students to change the world, connect with others, and conquer their classes. The students were guided by empathy to understand and design for the needs of those impacted by a natural disaster.
Students took time to interview to learn what others were thinking and feeling when they were left without the conveniences of home or even when they lived in a country for a month without power.
The IHAWKe students represented several engineering disciplines including architectural engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and information technology.
They defined and reframed the problem and launched into a brainstorm for solutions. They were encouraged to think outside the box for a period. Then the IHAWKe student leaders gave them the real constraints they needed to heed for their solutions.
Each student team was responsible for a different section of the house including the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms, power supply, and exterior skin, or building envelope. They researched existing products, thought about how they could be modified, and estimated costs. And then the fun began with building the prototypes.
The students remarked that seeing the prototype as it filled the mock PVC frame gave them insight that just having it sketched on paper didn’t.
Determining how to store, catch, and use water was one of the challenges that was prototyped for the IHAWKe Tiny House.
Students prototyped a way to create power for essential uses and what would be the best type of toilet to design in a natural disaster setting.
Of course, the students had to conceptualize and create a place to sleep on the bottom floor and an imagined loft area.
The IHAWKe students entered the next phase of testing and getting feedback from engineers from HNTB , the KU Civil, Environment, and Architectural Engineering and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Departments.
The next step is to incorporate the feedback from the engineering professionals and students, design it in Revit, and then begin building the house. The students are planning on visiting school children in Houston and Puerto Rico for outreach, community service, and for testing their new prototype. Engineering rocks!