The Accoya (R) timber grindshell, a student workshop project at the Melbourne School of Design in Autumn of 2014. Photo: ( The Accoya (R) timber grindshell, a student workshop project at the Melbourne School of Design in Autumn of 2014. Photo: (

U.S. Navy Academy Midshipman designs "gridshell" for humanitarian assistance

1 August 2018

gridshellU.S. Naval Academy Midshipman Thomas Imhoff participated with Greek NGO Faros  in a Service International Summer Leadership program, which is a Naval Academy initiative that encourages Midshipmen to design and implement their own creative and impactful international service projects. Midshipman Imhoff is a mechanical engineering student focused on sustainable structures and is researching and designing a new style of “gridshell” structure that has potential use for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, in particular for semi-permanent structures in refugee camps. 

His work with Faros has focused on teaching English and woodworking skills to unaccompanied refugee boys who are staying at Faros’ facilities in Athens. As Imhoff said, his internship allowed him the opportunity to have meaningful impact in both the short term and long term, as he was able to research his structural designs and how they would interact with the community, as well as having the opportunity to provide direct service during his time in Athens. Imhoff also worked with Faros to clean temporary housing in Rafina, in preparation for housing families who lost their homes in the fires.
Faros is a non-profit organization that provides care and humanitarian support to unaccompanied refugee children and youth, as well as refugee families with children in Athens, Greece. “Faros” means “lighthouse” in Greek, symbolizing the safe haven it provides for refugees from across the Middle East.
Midshipman Imhoff hopes to continue his research under his Naval Academy Trident Scholars program, where he works closely with his advisor Assistant Professor Samar Malek, and eventually connect with refugee camps in Europe and the Middle East to test his gridshell designs, as well as to return to Faros and continue working with them in the future.

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