Students Design for Change Hosts Workshop

Bud McMillion, pre-engineering teacher in the Arkadelphia School District, beamed with pride on Tuesday, Oct. 11, as his students explored a sample short-term homeless cabin similar to one they will soon build as part of a competition through Arkansas Tech University.

“We have a course in introduction to engineering design, and about half of our ninth and 10th graders take it,” said McMillion. “It’s linked with geometry, and I thought this was a really interesting design problem. We’re also working in our school to teach our kids more social responsibility as a part of that, and this really fits the mold for both of those objectives.”

The competition is Students Design for Change, a multidisciplinary challenge that will allow high school students from around the State of Arkansas to design and construct a small cabin intended to provide short-term shelter for a person who is homeless.

The project is led by four Arkansas Tech faculty members: Dr. Carl Greco, professor of electrical engineering; Dr. Julie Mikles-Schluterman, associate professor of sociology; Megan Toland, assistant professor of journalism; and Dr. Jessica Young, assistant professor of physics.

Arkansas Tech students Taylor Bleakley of Russellville, Sarah Bubniak of Farmington and Cody Butler of England are assisting in the administration of the program.

Approximately 100 students representing Arkadelphia High School, George Junior High in Springdale, Little Rock Central High School, Russellville High School and Siloam Springs High School attended the introductory workshop for Students Design for Change.

“I’m excited that the students are here and we can provide them with some resources to assist them in their design process,” said Toland. “It’s also great for them to see the Arkansas Tech campus and everything we have to offer.”

Billy Reeder was among the speakers at the workshop. An assistant professor of journalism at Arkansas Tech, Reeder is an advocate for the homeless and a veteran constructor of a dozen short-term homeless cabins that have served individuals in Russellville and central Arkansas.

Reeder provided the Students Design for Change participants with best practices for building shelters to ensure the safety and security of tenants. He emphasized that the cabins are a temporary solution to assist the homeless in remaining safe until they can obtain the resources necessary to seek permanent housing.

“One of the major objectives is for students to learn to work across disciplines,” said Mikles-Schluterman. “We hope that they learn to apply skills in construction and engineering to solve social problems.”

Teams will submit designs for judging by Nov. 11, and the top five teams will be announced on Dec. 2. Each of those five teams will receive $1,000 to fund the construction of their short-term homeless cabins.

The final products will be displayed at Arkansas Tech in Russellville during a symposium on April 7, 2017.

Students Design for Change is made possible through an interdisciplinary grant from Arkansas Tech and a community grant from the Walmart Foundation.