Flying start at DMU earns student national award


Repurposing abandoned aircraft into homeless shelters is the award-winning brainchild of De Montfort University Leicester’s (DMU) Mohammed Zaabi.

Mohammed (middle) at the Brief Cases awards ceremony

The Communication Arts student impressed the judges of the national Brief Cases competition with his innovative approach to tackling one of the world’s biggest social issues, earning a gold award.

Brief Cases challenges students from universities across the UK to come up with an industry-standard concept which is both environmentally friendly and socially beneficial.

Inspired by Japanese sleeping pods and other similar concepts, Mohammed came up with the idea to turn discarded aircraft parts into pods providing temporary shelter for homeless people.

“There are hundreds of out-of-service aircraft located in ‘graveyards’ around the country. Most of them have their parts reused or resold, but their frames are intact,” said the 23-year-old from India.


“My idea is to transform large sections, like the hollowed-out turbine engine space and fuselage, into sleeping areas powered by solar panels and utilising electrical cables discarded by local companies.

“These shelters would be portable and could be transported to various locations around the country, providing homeless people protection from the elements.”

Mohammed worked on his proposal during the first year of his degree, as part of DMU’s commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 9.

He said: “Winning this award has given me such a sense of accomplishment.

“If anyone asks me what the best thing about studying Communication Arts at DMU is, it’s that it has given me the biggest encouragement of my life in the first year.”

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Community is at the heart of Mohammed’s idea, which if developed, could see volunteers working with local businesses and apprentices.

“I see it as a seed that communities will keep watering. Each community will add something new to the shelters, developing the design to suit local needs,” he said.

“Being able to provide even one person in need with shelter would be a blessing.”

As part of his proposal, Mohammed had to submit detailed design illustrations and comprehensive logistical information including proposed timescales, costs and materials.

He said: “It’s been a really good experience and has given me the drive to go for more opportunities like this in future. Even the smallest idea could make a big difference.”

Only after studying dentistry for two years in India did Mohammed decide to follow his passion for design, researching different courses at universities across the UK before choosing DMU.

“I’m so glad I picked this course because it teaches you everything about creating content. I’m learning so much about radio, video editing, journalism, social media and more. Plus, I’m developing skills that are recognised by industry and employers,” he said.

Currently in the second year of his degree, Mohammed is exploring year-long placement opportunities for next year and has made it through to the second round of interviews at The Walt Disney Company offices in London.

Posted on Tuesday 18th February 2020

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