LITTLE ROCK — Twelve students from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Department of Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering faced a unique problem for their senior design project: to design a tornado shelter that could protect up to 900 people on campus against wind speeds of up to 250 miles per hour.

Local members of the team include Daniel Blair of Vilonia and Dylan Singleton of Conway.

Industry sponsors from Cromwell Architects Engineers and CDI Contractors created the design challenge for the seniors. Participating Cromwell members include Joe Hilliard, director of engineering; Mike Callahan, lead structural engineer; Paul Timko, structural engineer; and Larry Newkirk, structural designer. Estimator Daniel Bowen and Senior Project Manager David Cooan joined the team from CDI Contractors.

"We build on the skills they learn all year at UA Little Rock," said Mike Callahan, lead structural engineer at Cromwell Architects Engineers. "We give the design team a project, and then we guide them from the beginning to the end of the project. We love helping the students see how all the pieces of a puzzle come together in the end."

Split into three teams, the seniors took up the challenge of designing shelters to withstand wind speeds of 160, 200, and 250 miles per hour. Over the course of a year, the teams completed everything from comparing structural framing and foundation systems to developing a construction cost estimate and schedule.

The final designs contained buildings that could accommodate up to 894 people during a tornado with bathrooms, a kitchen, a training room, and a computer server room.

The cost of the buildings rose with wind speed protection. The building that protected against wind speeds up to 160 miles per hour would cost approximately $2.7 million and take 165 working days to build. The building that protects against 200 mile-per-hour wind speeds costs around $2.76 million and takes 261 days to build. Finally, the building that protects against 250 mile-per-hour wind speeds costs around $3.2 million and takes 267 days to complete.

The project won first place in the engineering/technology division of the UA Little Rock Student Research and Creative Works Expo and is being submitted for other contests.

With about 11,000 students and 100 programs, UA Little Rock offers learning, research, service, social and career opportunities that can only be found at a metropolitan university located in Arkansas’ capital city.