Disaster Relief Housing in PDD

Jordan Charles ‘17

This past Saturday marked culmination of my semester-long design project for the class Product Development and Design (PDD).  The class is uniquely MIT and is a melting pot of the MIT community.  Students include PhDs, MBAs, SMs in engineering/architecture, and undergraduates.  In addition, there are several students from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) that chose to enroll every year.  The goal of the class is to come up with an innovative idea for a physical product, build a prototype of that product, and develop a comprehensive business plan to bring that product to market.  
My team developed a new concept for disaster relief housing that focuses on modularity, customizability, reusability, and elements of human centered design to enable both physical and psychological recover from natural disasters.  My team consisted of two MBAs, two LGOs, and a designer from RISD.  Our solution was a ‘LEGO-style’ structure made from thermoformed squares that snap on to a skeleton-structure made out of connected pipes (no tools required!).  

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My team presenting to the class (you can see our 1/3 scale prototype in the center of the room behind me)

One of my favorite aspects of the class was the marriage of technology and business. If was fun to not only engineer a physical product, but also consider the business implications of that product throughout the design/development phase.  The class really personifies of the spirit of LGO (the intersection of engineering and business).  Our final product was a holistic solution that is both functional AND marketable.  
I also really enjoyed working with a diverse team.  We primarily built our prototype at RISD in Providence RI so we had the opportunity to interact with the RISD ecosystem and even got to use their photography studio to snap some professional shots of our finished product.

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Our prototype in the studio – pictured on the right is a load test where we (nervously) placed 150 lbs on the roof of our structure.  To our relief, it didn’t break!

The final pitch day was a highlight of the class as all 12 project teams were given 30 minutes to present their prototypes and business plans.  Many teams are planning to patent their ideas and continue developing them in order to take them to market.  Some of my favorite ideas included:
• A wireless credit card-sized external cell phone battery
• Educational toys for kids with disabilities
• A smart bike parking solution
• An integrated CPAP/EPAP machine to relive snoring
Additionally, some teams got really creative for their presentations, buying team t-shirts and even surprising the audience with elaborate costumes.  In the end, the pitch day was a fun celebration of all of our hard work and innovative ideas.  

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Team
Snap-Safe-Shelter-System.  (L-R) Anthony,
Katie, Miriam, and me