CAMDEN, NJ— When Ethan Llewellyn and Suliman Shakir saw what they had just built, they couldn’t believe it.
The two young men from Camden were standing inside of a state-of-the-art mobile command center at the base of the under-construction Cooper Tower. Just a little over four months ago, that same command center was an old shipping container tucked away in the back of a lot along Woodland Avenue.
“When it was completely finished, I was just looking, like, woah … I just remembered how it looked the first time when we stepped in here,” Llewellyn said Tuesday night.
“Yeah, I expected something totally different than this,” Shakir said.
Now, the transformed shipping container will be used by Camden-based IJB Electrical Contractor LLC as a mobile command center on its job sites, offering the electrical company the flexibility to pick up and move at anytime. The unit is solely powered by solar panels.
The mobile command center was the culmination of the hands-on skills Llewellyn and Shakir learned in the Jingoli Live Classroom program, a 12-week program that identifies and trains high school juniors and seniors in construction, engineering and related fields.
Participants learn about basic construction, electrical work, safety protocol, plasma cutting, HVAC systems, drills, carpentry and employment opportunities in the construction field, among other topics.
The Live Classroom program is run through the national contractor Joseph Jingoli and Son’s Competitive Edge program. It's the second year they’ve partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Camden County, where Llewellyn and Shakir belong.
The idea for repurposing a shipping container into a mobile unit began in Newark wheh Saleem Bush, 19; Frederick Jean-Jacques, 20; Joseph Marshall, 19; and Ishmael Jalloh, 22, all from Newark, came up with the idea of transforming shipping containers as part of their Jingoli Live Classroom capstone project last year.
Called “Help in a Hurry,” they transformed a shipping container into an emergency shelter.
Now college students and interns at Jingoli, they teach other participants in the Live Classroom program what they were able to learn from their project.
“I learned a lot, we all learned from each other,” said Jalloh on Tuesday, who worked with Llewelyn and Shakir once a week on the project. “We taught the students certain things we overcame, and certain things we had to go through — especially working as a group.”
Joseph R. Jingoli, CEO of Joseph Jingoli and Son, said that while the Newark student’s “Help in a Hurry” emergency shelter was a great learning tool, there was no niche market in which to sell the trailer. Enter the mobile construction unit.
“It’s really a learning tool,” Jingoli said. “Everything that you have to do in one of these containers you have to do in one of those buildings … If you’re going to do it in this compacted space, you’re going to learn all the same stuff.”
Jingoli continued: “We’re thinking as we make a more streamlined process and identify different market opportunities, we have this, which is your command center.”
The first command center was built by Llewellyn and Shakir, and bought by IJB Electrical Contractor. Ibrahim Branham, president of IJB, also worked with Llewllyn and Shakir on the project.
“For me, it's almost hard to capture in words the excitement I feel when I watch their eyes light up and when I see them accomplish something that they didn’t think they could accomplish,” Branham said Tuesday just outside the completed command unit.
Branham added that the mobile command unit gives the electrical company flexibility.
“In the construction world, there’s an expense to having a trailer hooked up, there’s logistical limitations to being only in one place,” Branham said.
The transformed shipping container is equipped with solar panels, AC/heating, electrical, running water, telecommunications equipment and workstations.