Carnegie Mellon freshman gets scholarship to create collapsible dome house to provide housing for the homeless


A Carnegie Mellon University freshman envisions a potential solution to housing the homeless with collapsible dome homes.

Christian Duckworth, 18, from Wexford, said his idea of ​​building portable, collapsible domed homes had been in the works for years. He worked on renderings and hopes to one day see the idea come to life as a solution to the affordable housing and homelessness crisis plaguing the area.

Her work won her a $10,000 Build a Better Future scholarship from Honors Graduation, a graduation apparel company, to help cover her college education. The scholarship is awarded to students who work to strengthen their local communities.

“From a young age, I’ve always had a heart for the homeless,” Duckworth said, explaining that he served breakfast at homeless shelters and worked on a renovation project in the Light of Life Rescue Mission on the North Side of Pittsburgh to become an Eagle Scout. .

As a sophomore at North Allegheny High School, Duckworth said, he began working on the concept of the collapsible dome house.

“It’s a great simple and effective solution,” Duckworth said.

The domed houses would measure 254 square feet, but fold up into cubes measuring 8 1/2 feet to allow for easy transportation. Eight of them could fit on a tractor-trailer, Duckworth said, and they’re designed to be “super easy to put together.”

“I was looking for a space that was pretty on the outside, but functional on the inside,” he explained.

Duckworth’s concept includes several amenities, including a bathroom, kitchen, loft, air conditioning, and solar panels to power the lights.

The structures would be made of vacuum insulated panels – or VIP panels – made from recycled materials.

“It would be lightweight and durable,” Duckworth said.

He doesn’t yet have an estimate of how much it would cost to build the houses, but his renderings show that such a house could be built to be efficient, portable, and visually appealing.

“The goal would be to put them on plots of land in the city of Pittsburgh,” Duckworth said. “It doesn’t look like a homeless camp.”

Collapsible dome homes could also be used for disaster relief, he said, or in other situations where emergency housing may be needed.

Duckworth is studying architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, but said he hopes to continue working on the collapsible dome house project during breaks throughout the year.

Duckworth said he came across the Build a Better Future Scholarship while researching scholarship options and went through the application process. When he found out he had won some money, he said, “That makes your day.”

“I’m not surprised at how much Christian is able to accomplish,” said North Allegheny technology education teacher Keith Banks, who taught Duckworth six different classes during his four years in high school. “When he set his mind to a task, especially something that involves engineering design, he would work tooth and nail to make it happen.”

As a high school freshman, Duckworth designed a highly functional hydraulic arm design in a weekend while his classmates took two weeks to create their designs, Banks said.

“Christian was always looking for the next big thing to work on,” Banks said. “His interests, intelligence and work ethic will take him far in life.”

Julia Felton is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Julia by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .


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