At an engineering conference known as Innovation Palooza, college students are given a problem they have to solve during the "Impact-a-Thon" part of the event. And a group from Pittsburgh, PA's Carnegie Mellon University went above and beyond.
The task the conference set for the students? To design a portable homeless shelter for when temperatures drop in the winter. One group's inspired solution: a sleeping bag that converts into a tent.
Group member Linh Thi Do of the team that placed second explained that they wanted to make sure their creation was durable and portable.
"We have wheels on it so it's easy to move, and soldier straps," she says in a video from the conference.
They named their sleeping bag "Satellite Shelter," which according to the video and CMU's newsletter, lays flat like a sleeping bag, but has a tent structure attached that can be pulled out.
According to the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment, over 610,042 people in the United States were homeless on a given night in January. In New York City, where the number of homeless people on the streets are a particular cause for concern, the average temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit — a chilling reminder that the homeless not only need shelter, but also warmth and comfort.
The engineering site explains how their invention will do just that.
It is insulated with Mylar, an affordable polyester material used in space blankets, and has a waterproof layer with ventilation. Wool blankets also keep occupants warm and make the space more comfortable.
Team "Green Residence" came in first with a design that created floor-standing billboards where businesses could advertise, and the homeless could also convert into a heated tent.
The first place team received $1000 and the second $600 for their game-changing ideas, and it's clear that both entries will impact the homeless in a positive way.
"Both are viable, affordable solutions to the intractable problem of keeping homeless people warm in the lowest winter temperatures," said Jonathan Cagan, co-founder and director of the Integrated Innovation Institute, said in a press release.
Cover image courtest of FinnPartners.