Dubai students' cardboard homes to solve refugee housing crisis

Kelly Clarke /Dubai Filed on May 9, 2017
Dubai students cardboard homes to solve refugee housing crisis

Safwan Mohiuddin, Avinash Pulugurtha, Ivan Thomas, Saad Alam and Abaid Isaac (Our Own English High School - Sharjah, Boys' Branch) with their project
(Juidin Bernarrd)

Mythri Muralikannan, Gems Young Innovator of the year 2017 (The Millenium School, Dubai) during the Gems Innovation Award ceremony at Gems Nations Academy in Dubai on Monday May 3, 2017.
(Juidin Bernarrd)

"Cardboard is everywhere but it's often tossed to one side so we thought why not make homes out of them"

Five Dubai students say they plan to solve the region's refugee crisis through a piece of cardboard. Using automated 3D printing, they have created an inexpensive, interconnected housing model for people displaced by conflict and natural disasters.

But for those of you a little skeptical, you should also know the boys - collectively known as team 'Pentagon' - have just been selected as one of the winners of the Global Innovation Challenge. In August they will present their project at the Singularity University Global Summit in Silicon Valley, California.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Safwan Mohiuddin, Avinash Pulugurtha, Ivan Thomas, Saad Alam and Abaid Isaac (Our Own English High School - Sharjah, Boys' Branch), said their project aims to offer a sustainable solution to the refugee crisis by way of cardboard.

"Cardboard is everywhere but it's often tossed to one side so we thought why not make homes out of them."

Explaining the concept using a mini prototype, they said they plan to 3D print a basic mould "measuring 7 metres high and around 2.5 metres squared" before wrapping it in cardboard.

"If you wrap the cardboard around the mould 27 times and coat it in linex, the structure can last about 100 years."
Although cardboard is biodegradable, over a period of 100 years only "four to five layers" will degrade, leaving the structure more than durable as a habitat.

Using 3D printed units, team 'Pentagon' said by operating from mobile units and not factories, they can print the moulds in one hour and wrap them in just 30 minutes - making it easily accessible and transferable in areas of conflict or disaster.

And with the UAE's plans to welcome 30,000 refugees to the country, team 'Pentagon' have a message to the country's leadership.

"Let us erect our sustainable housing units in the many deserted areas of Dubai. This would save on infrastructure costs to house these residents and the turnaround time to erect the homes will be a lot quicker."

Other winners on the night

Two other teams from Gems' schools took home the title of Global Innovation Challenge winners on Monday evening.

Solo innovator, 14-year-old Mohamed Haneen from The Millennium School Dubai will be joining team 'Pentagon' in Silicon Valley to showcase his product, the PowerShoe. A modified shoe that generates electricity by walking, it can charge your mobile phone in just 500 steps.

"I first got the idea when I was at the airport and the battery on my phone died. I was racing around looking for a powerpoint, so thought, why notcreate a more convenient one for myself," he told Khaleej Times.

And the all-female team from Gems Our Own English High School won recognition for their product, AL-ID - a system which instantly disables driving on detecting alcohol in the driver's system.

Gems Young Innovator of the Year

Mythri Muralikannan, a grade seven student at The Millennium School, Dubai was declared the 'Gems Young Innovator of the Year' for spearheading a technology-driven idea to make news headlines surrounding child deaths in school buses a thing of the past.

By installing 3D motion sensors in school buses to detect movement once the engine is switched off and the doors locked, Mythri came up with the idea after reading about the death of a young girl from an Abu Dhabi-based school.

Her prototype has been presented to the Road and Transport Authority (RTA) and School Transport Services (STS) who have agreed to pilot her technology in their buses.

"I was in shock when they called my name but I couldn't be more pleased. Once my product is fully operational I will be piloting it in a number of STS buses, probably by early 2018," she told Khaleej Times.


Kelly Clarke

Originally from the UK, Kelly Clarke joined Khaleej Times in November 2012. She has a keen interest in humanitarian issues and took over as the dedicated Education Reporter in August 2016. In her spare time she loves to travel off the beaten track, and often write about her quirky experiences of pastures new. Kelly received her BA Honours in Journalism from Middlesex University, UK in 2008. Before joining Khaleej Times she worked as a Supervising Editor for three Healthcare titles in London. @KellyAnn_Clarke

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