I get a lot of e-mail from students who want to work on a shipping container project for their undergraduate work. I myself did a paper on containers for my Master’s Degree, and fortunately the people I contacted were very helpful, so I would like to do the same. However, this has been difficult with a lot of students that have contacted us so far. Let me see if I can give you some guidelines that will make your research easier and it easier for me to help you.
1. Be careful about the idea of designing a shipping container structure for your paper. Unless you are concentrating in structural engineering and have a fair amount of coursework under your belt, it can’t be done. A modified container is an indeterminate structure with specialized sections that you can’t pull out of a book. Analyzing it correctly requires a finite element analysis where you have to build the entire structure in 3d,and model all the different parts correctly. I will not share the information on how I do this, because I’m not willing to train a possible competitor. If you take on a design of a container building for your project, you may be biting off more than you can chew.
2. Please ask specific questions. I did that on my research. I did call a couple of the companies when I did my paper, but I kept my call short. Phone calls are interruptions, and time consuming. If you call someone, you break up what they are doing and the time you spend on the phone with them costs them lost business. I sent them an e-mail with specific questions, like “why did you choose containers for project xxx?” and “did you modify the containers on site or off site?” and so on. I didn’t send an open ended question like “what can you tell me about container construction?” That is the question I get asked all the time.
3. Think about the questions and whether they make sense. One question I got asked is this, “What are the static and dynamic loads of a container?” It left me so puzzled I wasn’t sure how to answer. Also, questions like “how much can I cut out of a container?” don’t make sense either – it all depends on the stacking and the loading.
5. I’m not writing your paper for you. None of the other companies in this business will either. You can gather information from us, but you have to assemble it.
6. Please be mindful of people’s time. A quick phone call is fine, but put all your questions in e-mail, and don’t phrase them so they require lengthy answers, or you won’t get any help. No one is going to spend an hour answering your e-mail with facts and figures so you can skip doing the work you need to do on your paper.
7. Any pictures, figures, or quotes you get from people should have attribution. I am more than happy to let you use photos that I have, but you should give our company credit. Same goes for other companies. If you write about specific projects, give the companies that worked on them credit in your paper.
8. Finally, I get a lot of calls every spring from students that are in a class project to build a container building. This is a horrible idea, it will turn out to be very difficult, and probably won’t get completed. There is an exception – you could build a single container building with a simple door and a couple windows provided some of you are good with plasma torches, can weld, and know how to hang doors and install windows. The only difference between you and the people that do this for a living is they have years of experience doing this work and you don’t. If this is a class being taught by a professor at your school who has this idea, drop the course and add something much less difficult, like Finite Element Analysis or randomly choose a math course with an intimidating name, like “Real and Complex Analysis”. Either of those will be much less painful.
I hope this all helps, and I wish you the best with your research.