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Stateside July 18, 2010

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As of today July 18th the whole of the water system should be back in the United States.  I (Greg,) got back friday morning and Cory – barring any hick-ups in Bolivia and Peru – should be back at his home by the end of the day.  Overall it’s been a month full of early mornings, dozens of cups of Brazil’s finest coffee (with just as much of sugar as coffee,) great food, hot sunny days, happy and helpful Brazilians, and lots of hard work.

We are gone, but the project continues.  We left as the architect’s were finishing the columns of the first building.  Soon the I-beams will be going up, the roof, and then the walls.  From there plumbing, electrical.

Similar to the building, our designs have yet to be fully implemented and completed.  This is because – like any construction site -many of our projects and designs are contingent upon the completion of the building.  Therefore, we have left without being able to look at the final product of all our hard work.  As frustrating and somewhat disappointing a fact this is, it is as much part of the learning process within the design-build-test process as the physical product upon completion.

What we have finished though, is promising.  We have all but laid the plumbing for the Phase 1 waste water system, and have marked out a comprehensive plan for Phase 2 (Julie Bateman – a fourth year civil engineering student – will be in charge of oversight for the build, and for pretty much everything else we need doing on site.)  When I left, Julie was in talks with the workers at Jaguar Ecological Reserve (who live in a house on our work site,) about setting up an aquifer fed well.  And the most rewarding – for me because I was actually able to see the design through to completion – was the finishing of the bio-sand filter the morning we left! (see pictures at the bottom.)

Before I forget, I need to give thanks to some people.

First and foremost we need to thank the Brazilians that were so important in making anything happen.

  • Eduardo (the owner of the land we lived and built on,) deserves many thanks.  Without his help we would have had no connections to the locals.  Our project starts and ends with him.  Many thanks to his wife too.  She was immense in getting my checked luggage after the airlines continued to drop the ball.
  • Tito – he is an extraordinary guy.  Before he went back to the city to await his first child, he was incredibly helpful.  He was always with a smile, and always willing to help – no matter whether that meant driving us to the city to buy materials, shuttling fresh water from his parents house to the job site, or patching the holes in the pipe us Americans broke while digging with a piece of rubber from an inner-tube.
  • Fion and Fatchima (and Olivia) – Fion and Fatchima are Tito’s parents (Olivia, his sister who lives with them,) who live by the Ranch and the job-site.  They opened up their house to all of the Americans whenever there was a world cup game that either involved Brazil, or the USA (and the final.)  Without them, we would have watched the games without any atmosphere surrounding us; no good.  They were also very helpful when it came to drinking water.  On top of that, when we asked to fill our huge barrel (really, it was massive. Pictures of our big white barrel are below.) with clean water to finish the filter – the answer was yes.  We are incredibly grateful for their help.
  • Gerzinoni – this guy can do everything handy; we know – he’s done so much for us.  He: set up the hand pump, fixed the hand pump (countless times,) set up the concrete mixer, fixed the mixer (countless times – including swapping out the old electric motor with a new one that seemingly didn’t match with the number of belts the cement mixer had, but he made it work,) set up the electric jet-pump and he wired it straight into the generators lines, and fixed many other things with this white petroleum based glue that he put on everything.  We would have been at a serious disadvantage if he never helped.  AND he let us (John, James, Cory, and I) borrow his car – to go into town – where on the way back we got a flat.  Party’s wouldn’t have been the same were it not for the big speaker in his trunk blaring the same Brazilian country CD for the entire month.
  • Milton – to say he was the cook would be to grossly understate the role he played in our stay.  Apart from cooking some off the best desserts, breakfast cakes, and rice ‘n’ beans Cory and I have had, he was just a great positive personality to have around.  He was the life of the party.  He will be missed, and not only for that chocolate pudding, cake, chocolate wafers, and condensed sweetened milk dessert he made (oh, and that tasty breakfast cake that I swear was all butter – yum!)

Next, the Americans:

  • The Architects (John, James, and Nisha) – many thanks to these three who were our work – and coconut-baseball – buddies.  Nobody put in the hours they did, and their dedication to the building really shows.  They were extremely helpful in working out changes in designs to the systems.  Thanks again!
  • Julie and Ethan – without their vision, we wouldn’t even have considered spending a month of our summer in Brazil.  Thank you two for your continued dedication and hard work in getting the project completed.  As a side note, Ethan is really the only person on the trip that actually knew Portuguese, so many thanks go out to him for being our front line when dealing with Brazil and its sometimes frustrating logistics.
  • Professor Wooldridge – she has been the faculty advisor for Water System’s project since the beginning.  She’s always there give us help and some new ideas.  Many thanks must go out to her for helping us get this far.
  • Professor Skerlos – Skerlos was the one who made this trip and the build of our design economically feasible for our team.  Thanks have to be given to him for allowing us such an opportunity.

Well, that seems about all for this post.  Expect updates to both Design-Build-Test and Community page, as well as more photos soon.

Greg Constructing Filter

Finishing the filter the morning I left.

It works!

Filter upon completion in it temporary home


Visit to Pocone July 5, 2010

Posted by pcerwatersystems in Community, Design-Build-Test.
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Greetings from Pocone, Brazil!

In what will most likely be our last trip away from the work site, we are currently in the closest town to the lodge that we are staying at in the Pantanal – about a three hour drive.

There have been many advances in the project, and a few set backs since our last update. 

First, a positive:  All of our luggage is now accounted for.! After a week of waiting, we were finally able to get out the books and the materials that we needed to start our projects (all of which were convenietly located in Greg’s bag which was lost by Delta.)  Look for more details on the D-B-T page.

Negative: Following the crushing defeats (respectively) at the hands of Ghana and Netherlands, we no longer have any clear cut ties to any of the teams still in the World Cup.  Cory is backing Spain, while Greg is putting his money on the Germany. Regardless of who wins we’re hoping for three more good games and lots of goals.  More on everything that isn’t the build (including monkeys!) on our community page.

Be sure to check out the project’s blog, as well as the architect’s (links convienently located to the left!)

-Cory and Greg

Settling in June 21, 2010

Posted by pcerwatersystems in Community, Design-Build-Test.


Greg and I have arrived safely in Cuiaba and are getting acquainted with our surroundings in the Pantanal while waiting for Greg´s bags (with the water quality tests and sand sieves) to arrive so we can really get to work!  Today we are going to buy the other materials we need to build the water filter.  We are also comparing prices and energy demands of different water pumps that will be powered from the solar batteries at the school.

Currently water is being transported across the street from the Jaguar Ecological Reserve to a house, which is where the school will be built.  We tested the flow rate yesterday and compared it to theoretical values (look for data to be uploaded next time).  There is an old well dug next to the house that has not been used for five years, and at this point we are planning to reopen it and pump water from it up into a 5000L storage tank above the school.  We are also looking into modifying a hand pump to transport water up to the storage tank when the kids spin a merry-go-round.  We have lots to think about, but things should all start coming together in the next week!

Yesterday we went to Tito´s house to watch the Brazil vs. Cote D´Ivoire World Cup match with the GIEU group.  Tons of fun!  Look for pictures to be uploaded soon.  Back the lodge we have been fortunate to enjoy the delicious meals of Milton and the kindness of everyone at the Jaguar Ecological Reserve.  Truly an amazing place.  That´s all for now.  Another update will be coming soon. 


Pre-build design report for winter term 2010 June 6, 2010

Posted by pcerwatersystems in Design-Build-Test.
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Hey guys,

Beneath is the full report submitted to our engineering advisors explaining the trip and the design of the water system.

Multi Disciplinary PCER Report Spring 2010

10 days until my flight!


Waiting #2… June 2, 2010

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Hello and Welcome!

These are exciting times for the team.  We are officially in the same month of the start of the project, and as of last friday the water system’s team is now officially on two different continents!  As I write this – safely perched in my house firmly situated in Michigan – Cory is somewhere between Machu Pichu, Peru and  Cuiaba, Brazil.  Soon enough I’ll be flying down to Cuiaba where we will meet up and continue our travels into the Pantanal together.

I have done just about all that I can do without being onsite, and now it’s just a waiting game until we get on the ground!  The pre-trip report is finished (look for it on the site soon,) and I’m about halfway through purchasing the items we won’t be able to find too easily in Brazil.

’til next time,

Greg Ewing

Waiting… May 20, 2010

Posted by pcerwatersystems in Design-Build-Test.
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Olá!  The water systems team is anxiously waiting to arrive in Brazil to build PCER and test our designs.  Arrival date in Cuiabá is June 15th!  Then we will travel down the Transpantaneira to the Jaguar Ecological Reserve to get settled in and begin building.  Check out our initial design proposal on the Design-Build-Test page.  Look for more info soon!

Até lago