From February to March, we continued to trudge forward in trying to solve the issue of leaking. At the time, we thought the culprit to the leaks was due to damage done by thermal expansion. We then thought we needed thermal expansion loops. We spent the greater part of February designing these expansion loops. In March, we looked into using EPANET, a public software to design water systems. Tommy Polanco, a new member, and I created a little presentation on using EPANET. Deep down, I knew that at some point, one of us had to get clear on how hydraulic theory; how does water move in a pipe and what forces does it exert?
Towards the end of March, I started to get suspicious of these steel pipes. Why were we using steel pipes? I started doing more research and came across high density polyethylene (HDPE). Previous students in the past had ruled out HDPE because of fear that the rocky terrain would damage the pipe. It is true rocks can scratch HDPE, but the benefits of HDPE seemed to far outweigh the case for continuing with steel pipes. HDPE was nearly four times cheaper, lasted over 100 years, and doesn’t leak nor corrode! I spent an entire weekend reading literature reviews and articles on HDPE. I titled a document, “The Verdict on HDPE”, where I compiled countless peer reviewed articles. It was beginning to come clear that HDPE was a promising material.
Just as Feynman always did, question everything!
With increasing curiousity, I contacted a general number at the Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI). Dede Hart, the member services coordinator at PPI, picked up the phone. A few moments later, she connected me with Dr. Camille Rubeiz. I just wanted to gain more information on HDPE and its applicability in rocky terrain. I explained what I had been researching. I left the call feeling more confident in my findings.
A week later, Camille emailed me inviting our team to the bi-annual Municipal Utilities Advisory Board Meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Although I didn’t understand the magnitude of what Tulsa would mean to our project at the time, I trusted Camille when he said it would be significant opportunity for our project. Although the conference was less two weeks away, I powered forward with optimism that I could gather a team and raise money for the trip. After much effort and rule-breaking, we got 50% of our funds donated by the Deans of our school. It would be me, Nick, and Ally that would travel to Tulsa for three days during the school week.