Thursday, February 25, 2010

Scramblin to make a deadline

Working in the States we have all become accustomed to meeting deadlines. But here on the island deadlines are a rare occurrence. So many things can go wrong and often do that people don't really even think in terms of schedules and deadlines here.

Take for instance the Pignon Water System, a project that has been limping along for years now. It first started in 1985 when the government engineers showed up with all the materials to build a complete system for this city of 7000 people. But before they could begin installing any of it there was another toppling of the government. So the people took the project in their own hands. Those with money and power had pipes installed to their homes. But without a plan or any quality controls the system was too costly to operate and soon fell into disrepair.

Over the past 3 years a group of engineering students from the Illinois Institute of Technology have been trying to get a new system installed. A number of donors have been recruited along the way and on Monday we got the call that the government would be paving half the town starting this weekend. So I had a deadline: complete a detailed design of a distribution system for about half the city of 7,000 people. I had to have a list of every material to buy in 48 hours so my boss, Neil could drive to the Dominican Republic and order it.

I only had a 4 inch square print of the city from google earth to work off of so I called for reinforcements. My boss in Minnesota let me use one of our AutoCAD drafters for a day (Thanks Bill!), about an $800 donation and within 24 hours I had plans of the City on 24 sheets of letter size paper in front of me. I drew out the design and compiled a list of all the materials necessary to build the system. I got them to the Neil via email just as he was arriving at the store in the DR, whew. Three 14 hour days in a row and I'm ready for a Friday.

This afternoon I built up a space for a water laboratory. It's under a stairway in the office, mostly because that was the closest space to the only sink there is, in the bathroom. Neil said I could use the bathroom but I opted not to ... for ... a number of reasons.

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