How these millennials' invention can save more disaster victims

Climate scientists anticipate that natural disasters are only going to get worse. Which means we need to think about the people in harm’s way and figure out ways to improve our disaster relief efforts. That’s exactly the issue that college engineering tackled for the 2018 3M Disruptive Design Challenge. We spoke with the leader of the winning team about their design called the Dazzle Box. Following is a transcript of the video.

VO: This invention could help save more disaster victims. 2017 was a bad year for the US. It spent an estimated $US306 billion on fixing the damage from natural disasters – one of the most expensive years on record. But those toppled homes and flooded streets aren’t just expensive to clean up. They block the way for rescue crews. Making it even harder to help disaster victims in need of medical aid. Rescue crews can drop supplies from the air, but even those can have rough landings, breaking fragile medical equipment on impact. That’s where something like this could help.

It’s called The Dazzle Box. And it won first place at the 3M Disruptive Design Challenge. The challenge? Test college engineering students to build a container that could successfully deliver needed medical supplies if airdropped into the midst of a natural disaster. The guidelines? The device must be resilient, easy to transport from one point to another, able to be reused after the drop and water-resistant.

Jonathan Carlson:So we were supposed to design a container that would have a parachute but be able to survive if that parachute failed. First and foremost, it had to survive a 150ft drop from the crane.

VO: Not many projects survived the drop. Ultimately, it was the iconic shape that gave this team a leg up on the competition.

Jonathan: So we went through a lot of different shapes. And the shape we settled on for the final container is called a truncated octahedron. And we chose that one specifically because it’s sort of still like round and it has that sort of profile but it also it’s really easy to transport because it can stack perfectly with itself in space. So it makes it very efficient to transport as well.

VO: The device was made of individual polycarbonate panels that the team taped together and lined with foam.This not only made the device more resistant on impact, but it also made it extremely versatile.

Jonathan: One of the major design decisions that we made, and the tape also helped us make this decision, was that all the polycarbonate panels and the pieces were completely modular so you can just cut one out if it’s broken and replace them with a new one, put down new tape and the container would be ready to drop again after that. We also had a lot of foam that helped absorb the impact and that was used, you know you can make beddings, cushions, pillows, really anything you need to use it for. It can be cut and made into sponges if you needed it.

VO:Last but not least was the colourful design.

Jonathan: Yeah, so that was inspired by this thing called dazzle camouflage. There was a marine artist named Norman Wilkinson who developed it actually for the British Royal Navy to be put on the side of their ships. So that it will be harder for enemy ships to see the ships heading because the sort of, sharp geometric pattern broke up where the ship was heading. And it sort of also has this secondary effect of making anything stand out in any natural environment because it’s a very unnatural pattern. So we wanted to use that aspect just so our container, if it fell in the jungle, where there may be like heavy underbrush or different things, it would really, really stand out against that natural environment.

VO: They also added LED emergency lights on each face of the container so it could be equally visible at night.

In total, the team spent $US600 building the device. But it paid off in the end.

Jonathan: So each member of our team is going to get $US1500 cash prize, which is awesome. And then I think we just get some bragging rights, because we are the inaugural winners of the 3M disruptive design competition.

VO: And while the team has no plans to pursue the project beyond this point…

Jonathan: All of us did the challenge as an extracurricular activity but I think we would be open to any opportunities that pop up.

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