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Old 01-22-2014, 10:42 AM   #1
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To be a graduate student

Hello, my name is Marie, and I am an undergraduate in Cleveland studying physics and electrical engineering.
I intend to go to graduate school in high-energy nuclear physics, but I do not want to live in graduate student housing.
I want to live in a bus.

My parents are very against this, so much of the work will take place during next summer (after I graduate), and during the first year or so of graduate school. Hopefully the bus can become livable in the three months of summer in between graduation and graduate school.
This year and a half will be full of traveling for research, studying for the physics GRE, and planning the bus.
This is the time I will develop the CADs/drawings, understandings of the plumbing and electrical systems, and the know-hows of bus building.

The rough outline is as follows:

Part A: Preparations.
1. Plans and schematics. Enumeration of ideas and resultant decisions.
2. Learning the art of choosing a bus wisely.
3. Acquisition of a space to build the bus.
4. Hone my bus-driving skills. I've only ever driven a UHaul truck across the country.
5. Name a mechanic that will aid me in bus choice and bus issues here in Cleveland and near graduate school of choice.

Part B: Bus Acquisition.
1. Buy the bus. Target: $3000.
2. Change its classification to "RV" and get it ensured.
3. Acquire a "resident parking permit" at the university. If declined, acquire a "commuter parking permit" and move daily.

**Moving to the University will take place somewhere within Part B or C.

Part C:
1. Remove seats and "crap." (Crap == unforeseen obstacles on the bus)
0. Build an anchor structure for a kayak or a few on top of the bus.
2. Build 2x4 structural frame along walls of bus, anchored into the metal ribs of the bus. Insert insulation inside of this frame.
3. Install heating elements. I'm thinking a wood-burning stove as used in the old "little red schoolhouses."
4. Install plumbing elements.
Phase 1: Possibly leave room and thought for toilets and shower or small bath.
In graduate school, showers can be taken at the recreation center.
and there may not yet be time to create a toilet,
also located around campus.
Sink will drain into a greywater bucket.
Phase 2: Do I actually want a shower and a toilet in my bus? Not convinced of its necessity.
Decision to take place in A. 1.
If yes, will require pipes and planning, as well as an understanding of RV plumbing (where does the poo go? What happens to it?).

5. Install electrical elements:
Phase 1: Cheap Battery-powered system. No elements yet installed.
LED lights, installed later, illuminate the ceiling.
Other lamps may require batteries as well.
Battery-operated alarm clock/CD player. (Phone still? Raspberry Pi?)

Set up electrical system for phase 2 (electrometallic tubing with 120-V main or whatever). No juice will be given to this system, but it will need to be in place for the future phase 2. The source of power will not be purchased for many years into the future, as my mini-fridge can go in my graduate-student office.

Phase 2: Requires a power source. (Solar panels and a voltage regulator? Gas generator? Park next to a water fall? Just an electrical plug that goes to a 120-V outlet?)
Future power needs:
Laptop charging
Laptop speakers?

6. Install ceiling. Nice plywood bent over the ceiling of the bus. Will need to be careful around chimney.
7. Install flooring. Maybe nice plywood. Maybe "repurposed gym flooring," depending on price and availability.
8. Install walls, back of bus "garage ramp," and translucent windowshades.
--> Wall for bathroom
--> Wall for "garage," where the motorcycle will be kept.
--> Side walls installed with furniture. Furniture requires anchoring to support structure.
9. Install furniture.

Space allocation constraints:
Sleeping/Bed area
Table for working/eating
Garage for motorcycle
Maybe a carpeted open space? Couch?
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Old 01-22-2014, 12:49 PM   #2
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Re: To be a graduate student

as for needing a toilet.....if you gotsta gotsta go; a toilet and black water tank means you have to drain it or have it pumped out...might not work good on campus

a prota potti can be "carried" into a bathroom and poured into a toilet and flushed...might not get to many dates that way

lots to read about.

a shower in the bus for us is over rated, since we camp with access to bath houses

a toilet comes in handy in the middle of the night or when it's cold outside

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Old 01-22-2014, 12:59 PM   #3
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Re: To be a graduate student

If you are going to use the "garage" for just a motorcycle maybe a bus with a side door/handicap lift in the rear would work out better for you. You could set up ramp to come from the side and keep the garage shorter in the back....
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Old 02-07-2014, 12:59 PM   #4
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Re: To be a graduate student

Check with your state's DOT about requirements for getting your bus retitled a an RV. In my state most of the infrastructure and fixtures need to be installed before the DOT will inspect and issue new title. That includes kitchen with plumbing and stove, an eating area, a sleeping area, and toilet with permanently mounted holding tank (no porta potties). Tank has to have external dump valve.

There's nothing cheap about an electrical system.
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Old 02-07-2014, 01:20 PM   #5
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Re: To be a graduate student

I would check parking and living on the bus in the parking lot. Most cities don't allow it so I am not sure what a College would think. If they do not allow it I am sure you could find other arrangements.

Just make sure you "cover all your bases" before you tie up money and time.

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Old 02-08-2014, 10:35 PM   #6
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Re: To be a graduate student

Sounds like you basically need a bedroom/study area with heat and a convenient bathroom. That should be fairly easy to build.

As Bansil said, having to get dressed at 3 am so you can go take a pee is a major pain so I'd go with the porta pottie suggestion. That way you avoid installing a black tank and having to finding a dump site.

Since it gets cold in Cleveland frozen pipes will be a problem. If you shower and eat at the school facilities you can get away with minimal or no plumbing in your bus. A sink with a 5 gallon bucket under the drain gives you a quick and easy place to wash the odd dish and a Coleman camp stove will do nicely for light cooking.

Will you be able to consistently plug in to AC power? If not I'd plan to limit your power use to LED lights only and power them from two or three house deep cell batteries (not your starting batteries). Solar panels and a charge controller will be needed to keep the batteries charged if you won't be able to reliably plug in. If you want air conditioning you'll have to plug in somewhere.

A steel bus body makes a wonderful heat sink so plan on insulating floor to ceiling. A wood stove takes a while to heat up a bus and needs to be stoked regularly to keep the heat coming. Other heating options include electrical resistance (requires AC plug in), a propane catalytic heater or a propane furnace. Maybe you can cobble up a small thermo nuke setup and take care of heat and power at the same time.

Some states require that you paint over the "school bus yellow".

Parking seems to be the most iffy part of your plan so check with The Powers That Be before going forward. You don't want to put in a lot of time and effort then find out you can't stay close enough to the school. If you can solve that the rest of your plan looks solid.
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Old 02-12-2014, 10:54 AM   #7
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Re: To be a graduate student

Yup--other than it involves a school bus Just kidding
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Old 09-22-2014, 03:57 PM   #8
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Re: To be a graduate student

I'm looking at putting a wood burning in mine. I spotted this (in the UK for 40 which is about $70)<br />
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Old 09-23-2014, 12:10 AM   #9
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Re: To be a graduate student

Originally Posted by timbrass
I'm looking at putting a wood burning in mine. I spotted this (in the UK for 40 which is about $70)
Ebay UK
Did you see the size of it? 10 cm square by 33 cm tall? What will you burn, twigs?
There are good wood stoves out there, but this one looks like a toy. My advice is to move on.
Someone said "Making good decisions comes from experience, experience comes from bad decisions." I say there are three kinds of people: those who learn from their mistakes, those who learn from the mistakes of others, and those who never learn.
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Old 09-23-2014, 12:27 PM   #10
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Re: To be a graduate student

I was looking forward to a nuclear powered bus, buu wha happen. Where is it? I guess the parents won out.
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