Haylie Thomas
Haylie Thomas
Middle School Second Place Winner: 2011 Engineering & Human Service - Relief from a Disaster Essay Contest
Deer Creek Middle School
Tents of Hope

Devastating disasters strike all over the world, leaving innocent people stranded without hope. Although many relief efforts are made, many people get too sick or even die while waiting for help. However, one product has the answer, a solar tent made of thin-film solar cells incorporated into lightweight fabrics. This technology provides bare minimum tents to help support individuals affected by natural disasters. They can produce heat or A/C, energy for cell phones and radios, and a source to heat food. One tent designed specifically for disaster relief, the PowerMod, is the best choice to save the lives of stranded citizens all over the world.

PowerMod, created by Clean Technica, is a 20x20 foot flexible tent supported by one central pole. This product was created for disaster relief after flooding in Australia showed the need for portable, sustainable energy. The PowerMod is made of Ascent Solar’s film-like solar cells and FTL Solar’s lightweight fabrics. Combined, these materials were used to create a disaster relief miracle that creates its own clean energy. Although it only produces 4.5 kilowatts/day, the PowerMod creates enough energy to keep lights, fans, cell phones, laptops, refrigeration or AC equipment, and rechargeable batteries running throughout the day. Plus, it only weighs 165 pounds and takes a two person, 15 minute assembly. Along with providing shelter, the PowerMod eliminates hazards created by conventional fuel, including leaks, storage and spillage concerns, and emissions and noise created by generators; not to mention the shortage of fuel in a crisis situation. The PowerMod is cheaper than conventional fuel because it doesn’t have to be imported, leaving more money to spend on resources for disaster relief. These special tents can solve many disaster relief problems being faced today.

Many ideas, experiments, and failures are involved in the intricate design process of the PowerMod. Engineers and scientists work as one to devise the PowerMod by combining solar cells and fabric to create a large enough structure to house a family and provide enough power for one day. A predetermined, yet precise amount of solar cells and fabric is woven to create a portable, sustainable shelter. To establish the perfect amount, many experiments are conducted to ensure necessities can be powered as needed throughout the day. Various engineers are required to plan and construct the parts of the PowerMod. Material engineers use computer simulation to produce models of the materials and make sure it is sturdy and lightweight. Environmental engineers consult developers on constructing a product that is sustainable in various climates and leaves a clean fingerprint. Electrical engineers supply their expertise in generating and supplying power harvested by the solar cells. Civil engineers provide production expenses and government restrictions on the living suitability. Mechanical engineers ensure an adequate supply of energy is provided to run the everyday appliances needed to survive. Each of these engineers contributes invaluable information needed during the design process to certify everything works effectively and safely. Every detail needs to be thoroughly tested before the PowerMod is usable. In addition, engineers are not the only contributors. Scientists, architects, manufacturers and various other team members would be essential in the creation of a successful PowerMod.

The PowerMod is perfect for disaster relief. However improvements in design are possible. Pockets can be installed that charge batteries and phones without a plug-in, similar to charging pads available today. Therefore individuals can effortlessly charge hand-held items without fumbling with cords that may be lost in the wreckage, thus freeing outlets for other appliances. Environmental engineers could assist in providing a system to collect potable water. Also adding extra solar panels that people could place in optimal positions to absorb sunlight all day would maximize energy absorbed. Lastly, electronics engineers who specialize in communication and signal processing could install an antenna to create Wi-Fi and cell phone reception using woven conductive fabric; two layers of electrical panels woven together with an insulator in between. Intergrated antennas, generating 20.95 MHz of signal, would allow individuals to communicate during a disaster without relying on traditional mediums. These improvements would increase the comfort, safety and efficiency of the PowerMod.

Every day the PowerMod saves innocent people from being stranded on the street with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Of all the relief efforts being made, the technology of the PowerMod may be the finest, most efficient available. The PowerMod saves the lives of terrified individuals all over the world by providing shelter and hope after a devastating disaster.

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