Prolena is a small business in La Paz, Bolivia focusing on economic development enabling technologies. They apply for government (local and international) grants and subsidies to build technical infrastructure which will enable further economic development for a business, industry, or area. I spent a summer working with them on the design, manufacture, and installation of a wood dryer for a local industrial furniture company.
When I came onto the project, Prolena was in the process of completing its first "large" (10 ton) wood dryer (after building much smaller ones in the past). This large dryer needed to be built to be modular so that it could easily repaired or moved. Much of my summer was spent building, making slight changes to the design as we went. This is the only project I have ever worked on which didn’t require extensive computation planning since it was a one off build. I integrated our build schedule with the engineer designing the controls system so that he could run tests and make tweaks to sensor locations. This experience was particularly interesting because my daily work was with two skilled workers with whom I didn't have a common language. We communicated mostly through inferred body language and engineering drawings. Even more miraculous (or scary), they taught me how to weld, grind, and generally work with metal. It was amazing and some of the most fun I have had on a job site to date. We created the large steel structure that insulated the wood and allowed for it to “bake” during the drying process. We installed the dryer on site and got it running. It was a very satisfying process and project.
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