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  • Writer's pictureField Ready

The Journey of SolidWorks in South Sudan

The following is a short story of how Field Ready is an organization that is always pushing the limits.

It's 10pm and I still have a lot to pack before our flight to Juba in the morning. This is my first trip as a “Technical Adviser” as a part of Field Ready’s “RED Team”, and I am trying to gather together everything I could possibly need for two weeks of 3D printing prototypes with Water for South Sudan. As I have very little idea of what infrastructure may or may not await us, I am preparing for everything that I can: water filters, tents, and flashlights for taking care of ourselves, and solar panels, batteries, and extra filament rolls for taking care of the 3D printer.

I collect and download 3D models for every type of pipefitting that I can think of. It’s at this point that I realize I have no software to use with these models and I ask the Field Ready team for the SolidWorks installation disk. Turns out we don’t have one, I need to download it off the website.

After hours of struggling I come to the simple conclusion that you cannot download SolidWorks in Nairobi. At the last minute, we even try to have the Field Ready team send me a copy of the (legally purchased) installation DVD over Dropbox, but even in tech-savvy Nairobi, 7GB takes a long time to transfer. I give up and resign myself to using a slow, clunky, freeware alternative. Flexibility is a virtue in this line of work, after all.

We land in Juba and I find out that the country has no electrical grid outside of the capital, and no running water anywhere. Seems reasonable that internet wouldn’t exist beyond the equivalent of some dial-up speeds, and yet our hotel has Wi-Fi and I notice Dropbox still working away on transferring SolidWorks.

5 Days remaining.

With the already frequent power outages, it is doubtful this will work, but “hope springs eternal” after all, and I let it keep working.

Two days later we leave and the download still has several gigabytes to go. It was a decent effort, but SolidWorks wasn’t meant to be. At least we tried.

We arrive in Wau and to my surprise, the hotel, yet again, has its own, relatively stable internet connection! ... 3 days of downloading left, yet we only have two until we go to the field. The next day we will be leaving Wau and going 60 miles into the bush to prototype new parts for Water for South Sudan’s drilling team. Surely this is my last chance... so I turn off my phone and eliminate all other uses of bandwidth, willing with all that I can for the download to be faster.

It is the next morning and we are leaving the hotel in Wau within a few minutes. The download is within megabytes! I pause the download as the power temporarily flickers, and all of a sudden, the Dropbox is empty.

Where did it go?

Its no longer in my Dropbox folder!

4 days of this and it’s all gone.

With great devastation, I resign myself (for the third time) to the fate of using lesser software.

It is at this moment, when all hope is lost, that the files reappear and it informs me that SolidWorks is downloaded and ready to install! With great pride, I reflect upon the fact that I may have been the first person to have downloaded SolidWorks in Wau, South Sudan.

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