Competition Rules

2020 Competition

2020 Disaster Shelter Competition Testing and Judging Summary


Samaritan’s Purse will sponsor and John Brown University will host a national competition to design and build a prototype of a disaster response shelter (Transitional Shelter) for rapid deployment and set-up, to be used by aid organizations responding to natural or man-made disasters. The Competition Scenario for 2020 is a combination Shelter Design/Prototype and design of an emergency water supply/ sewage collection system to respond to the nation of Mozambique after the 2019 Cyclone Idai. This scenario was selected to allow teams to focus on a specific disaster type and location as well as cultural and logistics considerations. There is also an additional event to construct an Emergency Shelter on the spot using material kits provided at the Competition site.


Engineering, Construction Management, Architecture, and students from science or technical programs in CCCU schools and other schools across the US are invited. Interested teams are invited to submit a Letter of Intent no later than November 15, 2019, providing information about their team, capabilities and potential design concept. Teams will be asked to register no later than Jan 31, 2020, with an entry fee of $250. Team size will be up to 6 undergraduate students plus one coach. This coach can be a faculty member or industry rep associated with the university entering the competition. Teams are encouraged to solicit a local sponsoring organization to help defray the costs of travel and building materials used in the prototype shelter that will be brought to the competition. A stipend of $1,000 will be provided to participating teams upon completion of testing at the on-site event in April, 2020.

Judging and Testing
Judges will include Reps from Samaritan’s Purse, experts from various disaster response organizations, local engineers, and selected Engineering and CM Professors (current and emeritus) from CCCU or regional schools, and other technical professionals. If available, additional judges will include a personnel familiar with storage and transportation. A scoring matrix is provided for use by the teams as they develop their project. Judge expertise will include:

  • Emergency Management Expertise (Samaritan’s Purse and others)
  • Technical/Engineering Expertise (University reps and other professional engineers and architects)
  • Possibly Logistics Expertise/Manufacturing Expertise

Testing to validate the performance of the units will include the following:

  • Shelters will be weighed at the testing site. Shelters weighing over 10% more than the design weight (200 kg) will be disqualified.
  • Seismic load will be simulated using a shake table. The platform of the shake table will be constructed of wood. Therefore, teams should ensure that their shelter has a mechanism for fastening to the wood platform. Judges will decide the orientation of the shelter on the shake table.
  • To validate assembly criteria, competing teams will be required to assemble the unit on site.
  • To validate packaging and logistics considerations, we will be adding an event to validate the ease of handling of the packaged shelter.   The Competition scenario notes that the shelters may need to be transported without normal mechanized transportation, i.e. may have to be hand carried in many cases.  To highlight this requirement, we will be adding an event that will demonstrate the ease of handling of the shelter in its packaged (pre-assembled) form.  We are still developing this event, but it will likely require teams to hand-carry their shelter for a distance or through some type of obstacle course.  More to follow on this.
  • Shelter ventilation characteristics will be measured. The ventilation test will be a blower door type of set up. An industrial fan (output of ~5000 CFM) will be placed in the shelter door, and the area around the fan will be sealed. The shelter will be sealed to the maximum extent possible (i.e. how it would be used in a heavy downpour with some wind and horizontal rain). The fan will be turned on and run until the pressure stabilizes. A lower pressure build up will indicate better capability for air flow into/out of the shelter. Note that a shelter with many air leaks (i.e. loose seams, corners, etc) may do well in the ventilation test, but poor in the rain and wind/rain tests.
  • To validate physical performance against moderate to heavy rainfall the shelters will be subject to a rain simulating apparatus for approximately 12 minutes at a rate of 4 inches per hour (2.5 gal/SF/hr).
  • In order to consider privacy issues that are common in disaster recovery and sheltering situations, shelters will be subjected to a light transparency test to evaluate 1) any see through or shadowing in the walls, and 2) light leakage through edges and corners (that might allow seeing into the shelter). The test will be done after dark on Friday evening after all of the shelters have been assembled, and will consist of a 360˚ lighting apparatus that will be placed in the center of the shelter.
  • For livability, the shelters will be occupied overnight by a disaster “victim” during the competition. These will be students or other volunteers who volunteer to help evaluate the performance of the shelters.
  • To validate physical performance against wind, the shelters will be subject to a wind generating apparatus (“the Wolf”) that will simulate high wind and blowing rain.
  • Cost of the shelter should be validated. That is, the cost to manufacture the shelters in mass, not necessarily the cost to build the prototype. Costs must be include material and labor costs, and should be validated with receipts, pricing sheets, or some form of documentation. Donated materials should be costed out.
  • To expose students to the initial phase of disaster response, each team will be given a materials kit with basic materials (e.g. tarps, wood, pipe, block, etc.) and will be required to construct a livable emergency shelter in an allotted time. These make-shift shelters will be tested against wind and water.

Awards will be given for the top 3 Disaster Shelter Proto-types. Additionally, awards will be given for several individual categories: Fastest Assembly, Best Wind Resistance, Best Ease of Handling, Best Ventilation, Best Presentation/Report, and Best Water/Sewage Plan. Finally, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place awards will be given for the best Emergency Shelters.

Download the Competition Rules

Download the Scoring Matrix