Don Arp, Jr., MA
This is a perfect example of design for the other 99%. Using found and commonly bought materials to solve an unsexy problem that a large portion of society might face
SherpaLift is a modular, human-powered cargo transport device that allows two people to carry a wide variety of materials over difficult to negotiate urban and natural terrain. SherpaLift is comprised on three square tube sections that link together quickly with locking pins, shoulder pads, safety reflectors, and headlight. The design allows for cargo to be secured using bungee cords, rope, or cargo nets, to name but a few options. All of these materials are readily available.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
I sought to design a device capable of holding roughly 150 lbs of cargo that two people could easily assemble and use. The device had to be compact (ideally modular), easy to carry, scalable for different sizes of cargo, and assembled with a minimal amount of dexterity. The initial context for the project involved hunting, but has since expanded and now addresses the issue of transporting cargo over difficult terrain found in natural and human-made disasters in populated areas.3. The Intent: What is the personal backstory; why did you create your DIY project? What point of view did you bring to the project?
I am a hunter and each season faced the challenge of transporting the deer I harvested out of farm fields. I could not use a vehicle because of soil compaction and crop damage, but needed to cover distances of well over a mile with over a hundred pounds of deer in tow. The chief solutions provided by the hunting products industry involve dragging or the use of a wheeled cart. As fields are sometimes also flooded, muddy, and may have other obstacles, these methods do not often work. Further, many of the devices offered by the industry are not well built, which does not inspire confidence when you are a mile and one-half from the truck and it is 10 degrees F. I decided I could develop a device that met my needs and build it to standards I could trust.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
I have always been a fan of old adventure movies and was inspired by a scene in an old film where an animal is being carried on a simple pole. I liked the concept, but knew a solid pole was not easy to store in a truck and could prove too heavy as well once a material more durable than wood was used. I spent hours in different hardware stores, exploring options using pipes and other metalwork. I decided against a circular cross-section in favor of a square cross section that provides more resistance to bending and buckling while bearing weight. I found square tubing that was pre-drilled with regular holes on all sides, which afforded the option of scaling and the attachment of hooks and other accessories. My first iteration proved unsuccessful due to the bolts chosen. Switching to a locking pin instead of a threaded bolt made assembly easier and removed the risk of a lost bolt or nut in the field rendering the device useless. Weight tests provide the structure was sound, but the square tubing bearing weight proved uncomfortable to my shoulder. From previous work experience in a gym, I knew such pressure would be alleviated by using a squat bar pad and fitted the device with two of them. Given that this device was first designed to haul a deer, little was done to develop attachment points as the deer’s hooves would simply be tied together over the bar. An attachment point was placed in the middle of the device to lift the deer’s head. Using two hunting seasons as a guide, I knew it was likely that the device would need to be used at night. I attached a large beam flashlight to the front of the pole. The final element was a blaze orange cover for the deer that provided an element of safety from accidental gunshots from other hunters (yes, this was a real fear). In addressing the design issues and testing, I had the goal that the device would use no specially manufactured materials. All elements had to be readily available and accessible to keep costs low and allow for replication. Once fully constructed, I used the device to transport a 130-pound deer almost a mile out of a field in under 20 minutes. Field testing validated most aspects of the design except the light, which was untested due to the time of day, and the orange covering that simply snagged on brush. When I revisited the device sometime later, I decided reflectors on the side of the device were more effective and efficient, and still provided the needed level of safety.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
In the end, the SherpaLift’s most significant impact will not be in the hunting arena, but rather in disaster response. When Joplin, Missouri was hit by an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011, responders found it nearly impossible to use vehicles to deliver aid, especially at nearby hospitals. Most vehicles had been overturned or thrown by the tornado. Further, debris made wheeled travel difficult in many areas and impossible in areas around the hospital. SherpaLift could handle these situations, allowing responders to carry needed supplies over terrain that would otherwise be impassable. It stores easily and compactly, and can be assembled in less than a minute with limited instruction. Further, it is cost effective to build and all materials are readily available. A bulk purchase of materials could further reduce cost.6. How does your project fit into the DIY category? (For eg: sharing the process, sourcing, entrepreneurship, accessibility/repeatability, skill sharing, etc.)
Clearly, SherpaLift is a DIY project. I developed it with no support and built it from available manufactured materials. But chiefly, SherpaLift belongs in this category because this is a category that can be a conduit to getting an idea directly to those who need it most. My goal for entering SherpaLift in the DIY category is simply that: get the SherpaLift concept some recognition so that this momentum can be used to gain wider exposure for the design and reach those in the emergency response field who could benefit from it.