Well, we have managed to have a few more Tuesday evening meetings of those interested in engineering and SL. For now, the Tuesday nights at 4pm SLT seems to be working for everyone, and I have set up a meeting area for this purpose in the southwest corner of the sim around elevation 300.
Each meeting brings more good ideas to help develop an engineering community in SL. Last week we discussed settin up a mentoring program. This would involve putting together a booklet or listing of those who are willing to volunteer their time to mentor another in SL. This could be for the purpose of showing someone the ropes in SL or for engineering-related issues or matters in SL or RL. Anyone interested in becoming a mentor in this program, send an IM/Notecard to Jeff Brody – include your SL name and any specific skill areas in SL or RL engineering that you would like to focus on as a mentor. This resource, when finished, will be available in the welcome area that we will set up on the Public Works island.
Well, I am back from APWA and back into the regular swing of things – pouring concrete, attending council meetings, upgrading our water plant, and still working on the Public Works sim in Second Life. This week a meeting was held on the island with a few members of the Second Life Society of Women Engineers group. We came up with a few organizational ideas for the island and for building a community of engineers in Second Life. We are hosting a meeting next Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 7pm EST on the island which will be open to anyone interested in the Second Life engineering community.
The second day of the APWA 2007 conference started out with a general session given by Jeff Salz – a man who has spent his life traveling all over the world on adventures. He talked of change and how we can no longer continue to approach each day with the tried and true. Instead we need to be open to change. He also stressed the importance of service to our fellow man.
After the general session, I had the difficult task of choosing which educational session to attend. There have seemed to be so many interesting ones this year that are relevant to many of the issues we all are dealing with. Eventually I chose to go to the one dealing with “smart growth” and creating livable communities. Two gentlemen spoke about the neo-traditional subdivisions that are developing in Colorado. We saw examples where roadways are only 16 to 20 feet wide. All I could think of was how upset our fire chief would be – he is worried about the old 24-foot-wide roads we have that were built in the early 1900s.
My main worry about these new developments is that all of the infrastructure is set up to be owned and maintained by the development and the homeowner’s association. I just know that eventually the people would get fed up with taking care of their own infrastructure and would approach their alderman and the city about giving it all to the city. And I know from past experience with certain types of politicians that there would be the chance that the city would take ownership. Some members of the audience said that they had these types of developments and that their city had been approached to take back ownership, but they had required all improvements to be built to city standards, and they had set up a special taxing district to pay for this. One of the speakers had said in his case, the city he dealt with refused to take on ownership when this happened unless the development rebuilt everything to city standards. I think the possibility of taking on the ownership of the infrastructure within these types of developments at some future date is important to keep in mind when passing related ordinances.
The next session I attended covered fleet operations. The speaker, Prab Rao, discussed methods and procedures that can be established to make your fleet department more efficient and accountable.
The third session presented three public works facilities that had been built in Illinois. The architect for each and representatives from these agencies discussed important features that were incorporated in each building. The speakers emphasized the following points when designing a new facility:
- Consolidate everything
- Build a modern equipment maintenance facility
- Replace chaos with order
- Consider your employees
- Enclose your vehicle storage
- Be a good neighbor
- Play it safe
The final session of the day was given by Aarvid Veidmark, the owner of Specialized Services Company – an Arizona-based contractor specializing in trenchless technology. He presented the different methods used to install underground systems and discussed what factors must be considered when choosing the right method of installation.
Yesterday, I arrived in San Antonio for the 2007 APWA conference. Today, after registering, I attended my first educational session on right of way management. This talk was given by administrators from Hillsborough County, Florida. They explained how they worked to create a right of way management office for the county after having experienced safety-related issues and other problems with the existing system. By creating this office, they dramatically reduced the number of violations and incidents related to work in the right of way by other entities. This also enabled them to pass the cost of the remaining problems onto those responsible instead of having the county absorbed the costs as had been done in the past. A CD was passed out at the session with forms and other information.
The next session covered selection of CSO controls and was given by Vincent Spada. This was particularly interesting to me because for the city I work in, sewer separation has always seemed to be the best solution to deal with elimination of our CSOs. However, treatment, collection, and storage of combined flows has instead seemed to be pushed as the better solution by several others in our area. Mr. Spada discussed a particular situation in Springfield, Mass., in which a more thorough analysis proved that separation was the more economic and better solution.
The final session covered pavement preservation and was given by David Hein, engineer with Applied Research Associates, Inc. This session was helpful because Mr. Hein, with his extensive background and research, was able to offer examples that better explained why specific methods may or may not be the best solution. Many times in our community, contractors approach politicians and try to convince them that a particular application is a good idea for certain roads. Often these solutions are costly and not appropriate – for example cracksealing a roadway that has extensive alligator cracking. This session offered information that can be used by a city engineer to better educate city leaders who are approached in this manner.
Oh, and one of the best times of the day – a talk by Dave Barry in the morning. The man is incredibly funny. Based on his talk, I think every city should name a lift station after him like they did in North Dakota!
After operating out of the Crystal Islands group for the last several months, the Public Works Group has finally been able to acquire their own island. This has allowed for a greater expansion of offerings, displays, and provides one area in which the engineering/public works community can interact. While the island is under development, it will be open to the public so please excuse the disarray until it is more complete.
With all this room, there will be the opportunity for the following activities:
Continuing education classes, displays by vendors, renting of buildings by those looking for office space or storefronts or just a place to hang out, public meeting areas, and possibly an area for Second Life tips/help and a sandbox for building practice by those in our group (if there are enough prims left after the island is developed).
Eventually there are plans to build a short scripted tour for visitors that highlights the work done by public works professionals.
If anyone has any ideas or thoughts about what activities or builds could better enhance our experience on the public works island, feel free to comment here or e-mail the group at firstname.lastname@example.org
The current issue of the SLEngineer magazine profiles the Center for Water Studies, a 3-D virtual build in Second Life that is owned and managed by Delia Lake. (Click here to read the issue: www.slengineer.org) Lake not only has built a creative and instructive site where SL users can learn more about responsible water use, but she also has her group and center take part in real life events.
This July, the Center for Water Studies took part in the Live Earth celebrations. Draxtor Despres sent me this link to a video about the celebration. You can view it on You Tube by clicking this link: http://youtube.com/watch?v=jNDYgU1DJDw
I think Lake’s build and her involvement in real life events is a great example of how SL users are integrating Second Life and real life in an effort to bring their messages to the public.