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Needs Assessment:

Through collaboration with the Open Shelter Inc., the following were identified as technology needs for the homeless population living in Columbus:

  • Lighting:  Candles are used in personal shelters for heat and light.  Sometimes, they fall over and start a fire, sometimes with catastrophic consequences.  Goal: Create a low-cost approach to make it safer to use a candle in a personal shelter using local materials.

  • Heating: For tents or make-shift shelters in the winter

  • Sanitation: Sanitation challenges are often ignored, but are important to ensure a clean safe/healthy living environment.  Goal: Create a portable latrine from very low cost easily available items.

  • Transportation

  • Food preparation tool


In 2014, Pamela Arange (ECOS) worked in collaboration with the Open Shelter to design various solutions to some of the technology needs identified.  These new technology designs are described and pictured below:


  • Low-Cost Cooking


As pictured, this wire contraption holds a pot or other item to be heated.  A candle is used as the heat source and the aluminum container prevents starting a fire if the contraption tips over.  Although not shown here, a similar design was made using an alternative (hotter) heat source.





  • Low-Cost Non-Polluting Heater


For this heater, the candle is on the bottom, heat is captured by the pot on top.  If the candle tips the aluminum container on the bottom will prevent a fire starting.  Also, the reflection device at the bottom serves as an additional heat source.  See picture on the right.    







  • Low-Cost Non-Polluting Light for Shelter


In this design, the candles generate the light, and the reflectors make sure that light is focused where it is needed. The reflectors also focus the heat generated.







  • Low-Cost Portable Urban Latrine

As pictured, this low-cost portable urban latrine is a milk jug with a plastic grocery bag inserted.  Additionally, there is a plastic container set over the plastic bag.  The handle is useful.






  • Low-Cost Safe Candle-Holder

In this design, the top of a plastic water bottle is cut off, inverted, and pushed into the bottom of the bottle.  The candle fits into the bottom hole and the bottle catches wax and stabilizes the candle.


​Other Solutions/Progress: 

Students in ENGR 5050 Humanitarian Engineering created the following projects in Spring 2017:


  • Keeping Warm, Keeping It Cold: "JackPack"

In the summer, people who are homeless who do not have a refrigerator need a way to keep food cold. At the same time, in the winter (when the weather will keep things cold), they need to keep warm. This approach provides a single solution for both problems. Click here for details.

  • Shelter for Homeless:

People who are homeless often need a shelter to live outside (e.g., if they cannot get housed at a homeless shelter institution).  Two different designs can be obtained by clicking here.