Part 3: Meet the women behind the School 125 Community Plumbing Challenge

In the Community Plumbing Challenge, Autodesk Student Experts and four student teams, representing the USA, Australia, Basque Country, and India, came together to design and build new plumbing and sanitation facilities for School 125 in Nashik, India.  The teams worked collaboratively to use Autodesk software and sustainable design principles to build new handwashing and toilet facilities that are water efficient and easily repairable.  The students who collaborated on the project are all incredibly inspirational.  We spoke to the young women from Team USA, Jill Vande Boom and Miya Preston, to learn more about how they became interested in 3D design and their work on the challenge.

Miya, please tell us more about the Community Plumbing Challenge.  What was the design process like?
The Community Plumbing Challenge 2015 took place in Nashik, India, at local school 125. The 400 students and 12 teachers there had one room with only had four taps to use to wash their hands. The goal of the project was to refurbish this washroom and enable more students to wash their hands at one time. Our team, Team USA, created a design that was submitted prior to leaving for the competition. Once in India, the team, as well as the other teams from Australia, India, and Basque Country, presented their design to the school. Each team’s design was unique, and in the end, each team had part of their original design represented in the final design for the school. In the remaining days of competition, all four countries came together to focus on leaving the school with a finished product. The teams also got to interact with the students and teachers at the school. We taught the younger students about the importance of washing their hands with games and fun activities. The older students were taught technical skills, such as pipe threading and brick laying. In the end, School 125 received a refurbished hand wash room that now provides 25 taps for students to wash their hands. Although at the end of the competition, Team USA were crowned the winners, the real champions were everyone that came together for School 125. Because everyone was able to work together, School 125 was given a life-changing gift.

Miya and Jill reviewing plans for the new facilities.

Jill, how did you become interested in 3D design? Was it through school classes or after-school programs?
During my senior year in high school I started to use Autodesk Revit to design the layout for a new high school.  In college I continued to learn through my Introduction to AutoCAD and Revit class, and then continually used the programs for assignments in other classes.

How about you, Miya? What inspired you to study design?
My family has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and I have always wanted to study design since I was young. After learning more about engineering, I knew that my technical skill sets and personality were a perfect fit for the field. I have enjoyed learning more about my field as I further my education, as well as learning more about myself along the way.

Jill, what were some of the challenges or “aha” moments of the project that you learned from?
Some of the challenges of the project arose from being in a different country.  We had to learn the common building materials and designs for India so that when we left the school would still be able to maintain and repair the system.  If we did not have the help of all the teams, especially Team India, we would not have been able to design a system that schools in other parts of India would potentially be able to benefit from. 

Jill and Miya collaborating on designs with a member of Team India.

What was one of the highlights of your experience working on the project, Jill? 
The thing I most enjoyed was working with all of the other teams, from the Autodesk Student Expert team, to the three other countries.  Learning how to manage and communicate with different cultures and meeting new friends was the best part.  I will also never forget all of the children we met, and the children we were able to help through improved toilet and handwashing facilities. 

And for you, Miya?  What was inspiring about the project?
When I start a project, I always think about how the project is going to serve others. I was so excited when I was asked to be a part of the Community Plumbing Challenge 2015. I could not stop thinking about all the little children I was going to be able to help. Once I was actually in Nashik, India, and finally able to meet some of those children, everything was put into perspective for me.  All of their smiles and excitement melted my heart. I knew that all the time and sacrifice that I had put into this project was going to be worth it. I was changing their lives, but they were also changing mine.

Jill and Miya with students and teachers from School 125.

What is your dream job, Jill?
My dream job is to travel internationally to design wastewater and water treatment plants for developing countries.  Everyone deserves to have clean water to drink and use. 

And yours, Miya?
My dream job is to be a project manager that focuses on projects that are environmentally sustainable and help those in need.

Jill, what would you tell girls and young women interested in technology to inspire them? 
Anyone can do anything, do not let gender keep you from achieving your goals.  Always do what makes you happy, even when people are trying to knock you down.


Stay tuned for the final post in this series, Part 4: Autodesk technology and the School 125 Community Plumbing Challenge