Veronika Scott started her Empowerment Plan project as a student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. As part of a service learning assignment she was tasked with finding a customer and designing a product to fill the need for that customer. The process led her to a homeless shelter and with their input she developed the MPWR coat.
The specialized garment converts from a heavy self-heating coat into a sleeping bag. In the warmer seasons the coat converts into a bag. Much of the material from the coat comes from cutoff materials and scraps from HeatSaver Shades, a manufacturer of energy saving shades and blinds.
Homelessness is a huge problem in Detroit - it is estimated that 1 in 42 people, around 20,000 Detroit citizens are homeless. Every year around seven percent of the homeless die from hypothermia. This Michigan winter has been harsher than most I can remember and approaching mid-February there aren't any signs of an early spring.
Instead of going on from school to design automobiles or electronics Scott now runs The Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit based in the city of Detroit. Their simple but immense goal is to create jobs for those who desire them, and provide warm coats for those who need them.
The company currently employs thirteen women who were previously homeless, and fabricated 3000 coats in the last year. Employees are trained in general manufacturing, sewing, parametric modeling and 3d printing.
Long term, Veronika hopes that the project will lower costs for welfare and government housing subsidies, lower health care costs for the homeless and continue to create new workers who contribute income tax at the federal and state levels.
This project is a win for engineering on several levels. Every engineering student should be able to look at this project and realize they can make a huge difference in society. Scott has gone through an incredible media blitz with national and state attention.