MAKE...a Difference - Make: Community
<< Project Gallery

MAKE...a Difference

By george ettenheim

This project is an effort to prototype a mobile vehicle based system to aide in rural disaster relief efforts.

Type: Social Impact

State: tennessee
Country: United States
Affiliation: None

What inspired you or what is the idea that got you started?

I first became interested in the potential repurposing of Sea freight containers during my undergraduate design education at Arizona State University in the late 1980s. Considering the structure and materials involved in a shipping container, my young design mind took flight. My concept was to use a system of containers to provide hygiene facilities to the growing homeless Community. I theorized that the container/hygiene system could maintain a routine schedule and serve a large area without encouraging encampments. The container would house...shower, laundry, and changing facilities. I conducted outreach and interviews with both the homeless community and the agencies that sought to aide in the growing homeless issue. While the project was only theoretical, I did receive an internship with a design firm that was developing self-cleaning environments and I have continued to be excited by the growing popularity of Sea Freight container repurposing.

What is your project about and how does it work?

10 years ago I moved from California to Tennessee. The decision to MAKE a change was far easier than the logistic issue of moving my personal possessions and all of my MAKING equipment. There was a significant concern beyond getting everything relocated...Where do I keep everything once I arrive? I considered a few options, but Plan A had the most merit. I purchased a 45' high cube sea freight container and an adjustable chassis. Owning the chassis allowed me to have the container loaded, transported, and delivered without any time restraints and I would have a 45' enclosed space that was strong, secure, and weather proof. On the list of unforeseen factors...In the 10 years that I have lived in eastern Tennessee, there have been 2 significant floods and 2 tornados in the area. My container shop has been invaluable. Thru these experiences and in conjunction with this Award opportunity as a platform, I set myself to design and prototype a vehicle based system for rural aide.

What did you learn by doing this project?

1000 characters to describe my learning is a challenge, it would be difficult to reflect on the course of this project and determine what I have learned. a MAKER, I believe determination is learned thru every project and a key component as is resiliency . I have learned that ideas can be motivational, but motivation alone is not enough. I have learned that the best planning and design efforts do not always yield results. I have learned that "functional" does not require a quest for perfection, but details can be endless. I have successfully repaired chainsaws only to tear them apart moments later..."It doesn't seem quite right".
These are qualities that we share as MAKERS. A desire to benefit a whole that is greater than one self requires determination. OK, ok...this specific project, I learned to carefully check the final submission date. My project is still under-construction with many details not addressed and many additional components to complete or include

What impact does your project have on others as well as yourself?

I can feel as if I am only one person in a tiny dot on a map and when I do look at the world and it's scope of issues, I find it can be difficult to feel that I might have any impact. The world is a big place and perhaps there is nothing that can be done by an individual, but I am compelled to try to MAKE a difference. My project does focus on specific local rural issues but there are large areas that have limited volunteer services and disasters are not limited geographically. I believe that a resource that could be shared or combined with existing infrastructures would MAKE a difference. The system would also be able to aide in municipal, county, state, and park service efforts during crisis. Volunteer funding and equipment can be limited for both firefighters and search and rescue and yet the aide that is needed during a disaster is not limited. Hopefully my project will inspire or begin a conversation.