Photo: Competition Rules

Competition Rules

2019 Competition

2019 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 2019 is a combination Shelter Design/Prototype and design of an emergency water supply/ sewage collection system to respond to the Island of Barbuda after the 2017 Hurricane Irma. 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 16, 2018, providing information about their team, capabilities and potential design concept.  Teams will be asked to register no later than Jan 31, 2019, 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, 2018.

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 logistics expert familiar with storage and transportation and a manufacturing expert to judge the ease and cost of manufacture. 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:

  • To validate assembly criteria, competing teams will be required to assemble the unit on site.
  • Shelters will be weighed at the testing site. Shelters weighing over 10% more than the design weight (200 kg) will be disqualified.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Shelter ventilation characteristics will be measured. This test is still being developed, but will likely similar to a Blower Door Test.  Air will be blown into the shelter and pressure developed measured.  Shelters with better ventilation characteristics will develop lower pressures.  More specifics in the near future. 
  • In order to facilitate shelter testing, shelters must be able to be pre-assembled and moved onto the earthquake shake table (16’ x 20’) and into the testing booth we will use for ventilation testing (15’-7” x 13’-11” x 9’ high).
  • 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 who volunteer to help evaluate the performance of the shelters.
  • 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.

More comprehensive wind and seismic load testing will be done on the winning shelter(s) if the sponsor considers the prototype(s) advanced enough for further development.

Awards will be given for the top 3 Disaster Shelter Proto-types.  Additionally, awards will be given for the following categories: Highest Wind Load, Best Heat Retention, Lightest Shelter, Fastest Assembly, Lowest Cost, Best Camp Plan, and Best Report/Presentation.  Finally, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place awards will be given for the best Emergency Shelters.


Download the Competition Rules

Download the Scoring Matrix   

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