It is a little vehicle with a lot of potential. A multidisciplinary Senior Design team at Stevens Institute of Technology is designing an ASV, or Autonomous Surface Vehicle, to compete at the AUVSI Foundation and ONR's 4th International RoboBoat Competition, June 9-12, 2011 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This will be Stevens first ever entry into the competition. The RoboBoat competition challenges the vehicle to complete a number of tasks – such as navigate an aquatic obstacle course, spray water to put out a fire, and deploy a land vehicle to collect payload - all without the team's help. As soon as the craft is launched, it relies solely on its robotics systems. Stevens students have embraced the challenge, and are hard at work readying the craft for competition.
"They are a talented, impressive and ambitious group that has coalesced into a tight team," says Michael DeLorme, Research Associate in the Center for Maritime Systems and an advisor for the project. "It has been a pleasure to watch them apply and refine the engineering tools and skills they have learned during this very challenging project. I have been very impressed by their ability to pick up new skills across the three disciplines of Naval Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Computer Science, and apply them to the project challenges. This is quite likely the most valuable lesson they will have learned and it is a necessary ability for success in any fields they may pursue after Stevens."
All systems and the vessel itself have been designed by the team, which is comprised of students from three different majors. Naval Engineering students include Peter McCauley, John Kutcher, and Heather Tomaszek. Mechanical Engineering students include Derek Straub, Laura Barito, Ernie Guaimano, and Justin Wenthold. Computer Science students include Scott Knehr and Danielle Fabiyan. Advisors include Professor DeLorme, Research Associate Professor of Naval Engineering and Ocean Engineering Dr. Raju Datla, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dr. Frank Fisher. The students were also advised in the technical aspects of autonomous vehicles by Research Engineer of Maritime Security Paul Sammut.
"This is the first time we will be entering in this competition and I am very proud of the work done, pretty much from scratch, by our naval engineering student group," says Dr. Datla. "In addition to providing invaluable educational experience to the students, this project will have significant applications for the Navy."
Utilizing the school's resources of Davidson Laboratory's Machine and Electronics shops, Stevens students built the vehicle from scratch, down to the twin hulls it floats on. "We spent time researching the optimal hull design and actually constructed the hulls ourselves," explains Naval Engineering student Heather Tomaszek. "A lot of Naval Engineering knowledge from classes we have taken went into determining the proper weight balance and hull design."
By designing and creating the vehicle from the ground up, students were able to customize every system to their own needs, and saved a lot of money in the process, explains project manager Derek Straub. "We did this all on a very low budget. Instead of using a LIDAR system, we employed stereovision, which cut down the price more than 80 percent," Derek says. "The custom work we did on this project helped us to save a lot of money, and our attention to detail will hopefully give us a better system."
After the competition in June, students will head off to careers or graduate school. Until then, they are finalizing their design to create the best vehicle possible. "This was a huge learning experience," says Mechanical Engineering student Laura Barito. "I didn't know a lot about engineering ships coming in, but I am glad that I chose this project."
Stay tuned for more information as the team completes the ASV and sends it to competition.