Related to MAKE 04, MakeShift
MakeShift 04: Bobby Joe Snyder's "Hans Christian Andersen" Honorable Mention
by William Lidwell
March 16, 2006
Nice images, unique presentation, and a few key references to famous "Kamenisms" won this honorable mention. The DEKA team comments: "A second honorable mention goes to Bobby Joe Snyder, a.k.a. "Trurl the Constructor," for his entertaining story and his mention of the South Pointing Chariot and "frog kissing." Congratulations Bobby Joe!
So I have arrived at the Mexican farm where the drought has affected the irrigation of water. The first thing is to gather all the workers because my plans and the effort are going to need all of us to work together. The first thing I need to know is our supply list. I can move the water, but long pipe would aid our efforts. I especially need to know what equipment is contained in the greenhouse and metal barn.
I find the broken tractor. It would help move the 1,500-gallon oil tank filled with water, but I think we will manage to move the tank with the donkeys and the wagon. The tractor would be difficult to fix without parts. However, it is not out of the question to fix it later because I know a little about small engines. However, the first major problem we face is filling the 1,500-tank.
Chicko, the farmer's son, has informed me that there may be limited pipe or hose in the greenhouse. Enrique, the old farmer, is desperate to hear my plan, but as I can read his body language he is impatient. So this idea must sell.
I explain to the entire family that we do have an ample amount of time before the plants die due to the sunlight. So with this time we must create a solution that will last weeks, because there is no way to know how long the drought will be. Right now the only water supply is the pond, but I explain it may be necessary for a well to be dug. Today, though, we concentrate our efforts on moving the water from the pond.
I decide to divide the work. Sandra, the daughter, is the smallest but is still old enough to help me with repairing the tractor and filling the tank. The wife, Enrique, and his son will be the labor to move the water to the crops.
I tell them to unravel the 4 mil clear plastic near the end of the pond. Cut the plastic of lengths of around 5 feet. Cover it with about an inch of dirt. Wet the soil thoroughly with the buckets until the dirt is saturated. Cover with the 4 mil black plastic. Now roll the plastic inward over a 4-inch piece of pipe (The pipe is not necessary but makes it easier to move, turn and carry). Now using 2 men on each side load it into the cart that will be pulled by the 2 donkeys. It will be hauled to the rows of crops. The black plastic will be removed and saved for another load. The clear plastic will then be turned over. (The sections are small enough that they should be able to be flipped. You could use only the clear plastic and unravel it with the dirt facing down and the plastic facing up). Finally, some holes will be punched in the clear plastic.
This is the easiest, current way to distribute water until we can fill the tank and empty it. This will distribute water evenly through the soil and the plastic should keep moisture in if it does evaporate. This is only temporary. We want to keep water off the plant leaves so they don't "burn out" in the intense sun.
I explain to the family my weeklong solution that will last as long as the pond is full, but does require a lot of work. That isn't a problem because this family knows the meaning of hard work and this crop is very important to them and their lifestyle.
We have no choice but to use the 1,500-gallon tank. Moving it should not be a problem; it can be put into the wagon and pulled by the car or donkeys if the car isn't available. If the wagon doesn't work we can build our own cart from pipe or the frames of the other farm equipment. The 3 wood barrels are no good for transporting water, but could be used as wheels for the improvised cart. The tractor also has tires we can use.
That was the easy part, because for the barrel to be effective there has to be a way to fill and empty it fast. The two donkeys are strong enough to pull the tank on wheels or in the cart. I inform the family I have many solutions to the problem because some first tries may not work. I first thought of siphoning the water but that is too slow. I also considered a water auger that looks like a drill bit and lifts the water up as it turns. But that isn't practical to build and would not be able to remove water from the tank. My solution is to use a water pump from the materials we have.
This water pump will be built in several ways. The car and possibly the large farm tractor have a water pump. This is because the engines are cooled by liquid (antifreeze) and not air. If I could connect a hose to the inlet and outlet of the water pump that is already assembled and very efficient, all that would need to be done is to start the engine and the pump would do the rest. Of course the hoses would need to be flushed for a while, but if this works we will be able to water the crops completely by the end of the day.
The first contingency plan is that if the car or tractors water pump fell is to construct an improvised pump system using hoses and pipes from the greenhouse or farm equipment. Using what I know about pumps and their physics I know of a few ways to design a pump, but its fabrication is going to take awhile from the equipment we are working with. There is no time for "product research," so I will either invent something ingenious or waste time "creating a south-pointing chariot."
Pumps work on pressure and vacuums combined with a little mechanical force. I want to build a pump that has a little rotating propeller that forces air or water out of the flowing end. Unfortunately I have no way of containing the water in a watertight canister. (Imagine how an airbrush works.) So my design relies on a vacuum. I am going to take a flexible hose and cut a piece of that hose to fit into the original and form a piston. (Imagine a syringe.) That pipe will be pulled in and out of the main pipe by a rod attached to gears turned by an engine from one of the farm equipment (or either the car or broken tractor). There will be a simple value that is closed on the vacuum stroke and open on the compression stroke. This will be on the end of the hose and the rod will be small enough that it still fits easily into the tank.
We are building the improvised water pump when Sandra asks, "Senor Snyder this is fun, but is it going to save the plants?"
I tell little Sandra, "A scientist once said: 'Don't be afraid to kiss frogs.' That is why I have several plans, because some might not work, but with every one that doesn't work you learn something. It is that 'little something' that just might help us reach a solution. It helps us narrow down which frogs, when kissed, will turn into a prince or princess."
"Senor Snyder," Sandra adds. "I don't want to kiss frogs. I just want to water the crops."
"It is just an expression," I assure her. "Each frog represents our proposed solutions. Kissing a frog wouldn't be so bad if it turned into a prince, now would it? This is where the job becomes harder than the physical labor. Sometimes the right idea in the right time is harder than any physical labor ever could be. Sometimes it's easy, but usually finding the right plan is what determines success. I think we have some good ideas. Do you have any ideas Sandra?"
"Why don't we drill a well, Senor Snyder?"
"Not a bad idea. Unfortunately I don't think we have the equipment. But if the drought continues I think we'll need a dowser or geologist. But that is a great idea, kid."
"Senor Snyder, I think your plans are going to work. We've found a prince on the first frog."
"Let's get back to work, kid, and prove you right."
Later, Chicko returned from doing the grunt work. "Senor Snyder, we have laid the wet soil covered by plastic. What have you accomplished?"
Sandra says, "We have built a few pumps and kissed some frogs."
"We have been working hard all afternoon and this is all you guys did — it doesn't even work. We never should have listened to you, stranger."
Sandra interrupts, "It will work. Tell him, Senor Snyder."
I grab the empty Coke bottle and ask Chicko, "What is this?"
He replies, "It's a plastic bottle."
"That is right," I say, "but I prefer to call it a funnel. A funnel that placed on the 4-inch inlet hose will solve all the pumps efficiency problems."
They watch as I cut the bottle with a pocketknife and insert a piece of cut screen in the pipe and connect the Coke bottle funnel. I give Chicko the honor of starting the pump. He waits impatiently for a minute.
"It works, amigo! It works!"
Before explaining the design of my "water pump" I want to explain some of the design difficulties. It is easy enough to design a pump. There are pumps in every day items. The challenge is to make one in the field. There is no machine shop to turn out custom parts. Springs, valves, and gears that don't break the seal of the pump are all design challenges. I chose a design that could be made in about 3 hours once the materials were collected. It isn't the most efficient pump. Also I have only tested it in theory. I tried to rely on my own knowledge for this MakeShift 04 solution because that is how it is in the field. You don't have the library or Internet. But although my design may need some tweaking, I feel it is a good solution to pumping the water into the oil tank.
The design is simple but required some thought. You find a hose or plastic pipe and place another slightly smaller hose in it. The smaller hose can be cut into quarters and then clamped together with a metal ring so that it is adaptable to many different sizes of pipe. (In the drawing a smaller hose of 1" radius is used to get general proportions).
Simply stated, an overall description of the pump is the following. It is a piston-like device with a valve to release the water. It is similar to a small gas engine piston, a subject that I have recently studied. Here is how it works. The smaller hose is inserted into the larger hose. Small metal cylinders are inserted into holes in the small hose and held in place by two bolts along the inside of the hose. The very top bar is the place in which the improvised valve rotates. This top bar is not in holes in the hose, instead it has a bent piece of metal connecting it to the main bar below it. The valve is connected to the top bar by wire wound around the bar. If holes are necessary to put in the valve sealant can be used to make it watertight.
Continued: the valve is opened and closed by a bar connected to a gear system that moves the smaller hose back and forth. The valve will open on the inward stroke and close to form a vacuum seal on the down stroke. This inward/outward motion is tricky to create, but is possible to improvise. (That will be discussed latter.) This seal is how the pump works similar to how a syringe would. But it also has the valve opening to complete its motion. The same bar that pulls the small hose back and forth is the same part that opens and closes the valve. There are measured slits in the small hose to let the bar move without moving the hose and at the same time opening the valve.
Some notes on the valve are that there are seals on the top and on the bottom. The seals are opposite the way the valve rotates. They are split halfway in the picture. This only allows for the valve to open a small amount. To improve this the valve could be slanted or the valve could be in the shape of a "Z". The easiest solution would be to make the top seal less than half of the bottom. This would give the valve more room to rotate.
A key part to the piston is the rubber seals that keep the piston watertight. To improvise this rubber from hoses, cut pieces from a plunger, or the most preferred method of windshield wipers. Malleable metal may also be shaped. (I originally thought of a soda can, but other than the bottom the metal is too thin.) This contraption is held together with a long piece of thin metal clamping together all the parts together.
In the drawing the small hose (piston) is inside the large hose that connects to the water source. This is only one combination. If pipe joints are available, a joint with 2 outlets could be used — one hole containing the piston and the other an outlet for the water. An improvised valve could be made to cover the outlet to improve the pumps power. I should also mention that a screen and funnel-shaped piece such as a cut soda bottle could be placed in the inlet hose or pipe.
The back and forth motion must be addressed. There are several ways to improvise this: electric motor that turns both ways, gear cut in half, turning gear teeth, a chain that alternates gears like a bike, or a transmission similar to a car. Each of these could be explored in depth, but are a MakeShift solution themselves.
Note on Back and Forth Motion
The modified gear drawing is just to show that producing an equal back and forth motion is possible. Cutting the teeth of a gear in an arc length less that 180 degrees is a simple, quick, improvised solution. The only problem is that it takes a large size gear. This gear could be found on a car or possibly a tractor. But in this drawing to move the piston 14 inches a gear of a minimum 10.7-inch diameter would be needed.
Of course there are other methods. I just want to show that the back and forth motion is possible. It is a topic to tinker with and research what designs are already available. It would take me quite some time to draw out the best solution. Designs often lead to more designs especially when a problem occurs. I have mentioned other ways to produce this back and forth motion earlier in the write up.
Hopefully my description is clear. The pictures should explain everything after studying them a while. The piston drawing can be viewed in 3D Studio Max. Its proportions are correct. It helped me to visualize the design better drawing in 3D.
Oh, and .... may the Creative Force be with you, the reader!
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