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Challenge Statement and Description

Your overall goal is to create a new capability in ocean observation, by constructing a small, autonomous surface vessel system capable of tracking a subsurface acoustic source. In the first part of the subject (2.017J), you will perform modeling tasks to support informed decisions, conduct experiments, and test hardware and build it into a hull. In the second part of the course (2.019), you will perform tests and quantify the performance of the system.

Project Technical Goals (Descending Priority)

  • Demonstrate a small, autonomous surface vessel homing to a subsurface acoustic beacon.
  • Demonstrate this in Sea State 3 conditions.
  • Demonstrate navigation in a global frame, e.g., GPS, compass.
  • Demonstrate waypoint autopilot capability.

Core Intellectual Areas

  • Design of Vessels for Waves
  • Acoustics
  • Hull Hydrodynamics and Propulsion
  • Embedded Controllers, Sensors and Electronics
  • Feedback Control Systems
  • Navigation Systems

Building on the considerable learning of last semester, you have increased flexibility this year to build your device and test it! Note that the schedule has a three-hour session and a two-hour session, nominally for doing lab work, and a one-hour session, for standalone lectures or organizational meetings.

The following topics will be addressed through these weekly lectures; some reinforce your exposure last semester, and others address broader ocean engineering areas:

  • Sea-Keeping
  • Strength of Hulls
  • Subdivision of Vessel Components
  • Physics of Acoustics
  • Resistance, Power and Propulsion
  • Power Sources
  • Control Surfaces
  • Dynamics and Feedback Control
  • Graphical Information Systems (GIS)


Loukakis, T. A., and C. Chryssostomidis. "Seakeeping Standard Series for Cruiser-Stern Ships." Transactions SNAME 83 (1975): 67-127.

Chryssostomidis, C., and M. Triantafyllou. "Naval Architecture for Offshore Applications." 1981. (PDF - 1.7 MB)#

Lab Rules

Lab Rules and Safety in the Lab and Field (PDF)

Grading Policy

Lab Notebooks (Collected Three Times, Individual) 5%
Homework (Two Homeworks, Individual) 5%
October Short written Report (Individual) 10%
November Presentation (Group) 10%
Draft of Final Report (Group) 5%
Final Presentation (Group) 20%
Final written Report (Individual) 25%
Attendance and Participation (Individual) 10%
Innovation, Initiative, and Problem Solving (Individual) 10%

The homework is to reinforce topics covered in weekly lectures.

The October short written report is to detail your September work and to prepare for the Challenge integration and field tests. We will not read past the tenth page.

The November presentation is intended to bring together the field test data in a coherent form, and to fine tune presentation skills.

The final presentation is about 45 minutes long and is given to a non-specialized audience made up of department faculty, students, and invited guests. There is a question and answer period.

The written report is your permanent contribution on the topic. As such, it needs to be the most polished - refined, clear, and good-looking. This can be as long as you wish.

Overall, written and oral reports are graded on the following merits:

  • Clarity of Presentation
  • Technical Soundness
  • Organization and Cohesiveness
  • English Usage

Note that participation, innovation, etc., are largely subjective assessments, based on what we observe day-to-day, rather than on the reports and notebooks. Encouraging you to be a vital part of a working engineering group is one of the major goals of the subject. What we expect in more detail:

Innovation, Initiative, and Problem Solving: You have to take the bull by the horns and solve real-world problems in this course. This includes making phone calls, contacting experts for advice or requesting specialty lectures, experimenting with several different glues, performing tests in the Tunnel or the Towtank, and so on. If we think you don't take initiative, it could cost you a letter grade.

Attendance and Participation: Each person has to contribute in lab and in discussions; this starts with good attendance, and paying attention. No unexcused absences are permitted. An excused absence consists of at least two parts: a) you send us a request, b) we respond that you are excused - both have to occur before the class or lab session that you will miss. If you are sick, we need a note. If you have a family emergency, you are expected to clear it with the Counseling and Support Services office. In the event of an excused absence it is your responsibility to make up any lost work, and coordinate with your classmates. Please don't make us lower your grade because of something as silly as attendance!

Also, please note that one major part of participation is providing constructive criticism for your classmates. At times, we will ask you to critique the ideas of others - and it should become a natural dynamic within the group.

Grade Scenarios

Your basic grade will be a "B" if you adequately perform the work required of you in this course. If your performance is outstanding then you will earn an "A." If your performance is under par then your grade will be lower than a B; the actual grade will depend on how under par. The following are specific examples of hypothetical students who earned a "C," a "B," and an "A." In all three cases the students produced the same physical product, cracked, taped-up fins. However each student ended up with this unhappy result following a different path. These scenarios stress that it is the Way in which you approach your work that is important, not necessarily the technical quality of the end product.

"C" student - Student X is charged with building fins for the vehicle. Student X ordered the fin stock and was given some references on how to hand fabricate an airfoil-shaped fin. Student X proceeded to not read the material, leave the fin stock on the shelf and go off and help other students do machining, which Student X liked better than building the fins. Near the end of the project Student X tried to make the fins. It turned out that the fin stock was too brittle and the fins cracked, there was no time to buy new fin stock so the fins end-up taped together.

"B" student - Student Y has the same task as Student X. He/she ordered the fin stock and obtained information on how to build the properly shaped fins. Upon receipt of the fin stock student Y worked reasonably hard on trying to make fins out of fin stock that was clearly inadequate (too brittle). Student Y tried repeatedly and with great care to build the fins according to the given procedure but to no avail; the end product was taped-up fins.

"A" student - Student Z has the same task as Student X. Like student Y, he/she obtained the fin stock, read the information and attempted to make a fin. Seeing that the fin stock was inadequate Student Z started two parallel projects. The first was to modify the fin making procedure to enable the use of the fin stock in hand. The second was to find fin stock material that could withstand the fabrication technique. Unfortunately, both efforts failed despite a lot of hard work and experimentation on the part of Student Z. The end result was taped-up fins.

Importance of Personal Communication

The usual result of any self-organization process is that certain students are assigned to work on specific tasks. This is sometimes unfair - if you are not particularly interested in the task, or the task turns out to be more difficult than what was expected, a negative spiral can occur as you get more and more frustrated, and disconnected with the group. Don't let this happen to you. Communicate with your colleagues and with your instructors!


1-4 Focused Tasks in Support of the Challenge (Four Students Per Task)

Acoustic System Complete Loop: Fire the Transducer, Record the Transponder, and Compute Range and Bearing

- Rebuild Acoustic System from Last Semester
- Test Filter and Amplifier, Control Amplifier from TT8
- Characterize Hardware Delays in System
- Record Modulated Signals on the TT8
- Apply Autocorrelation to Determine and Characterize Time Differences
- Compute Range, and Apply Geometry to Compute Bearing in Real-time
- Demonstrate

Vessel Operation: Start Thruster, Drive the Boat on a Given Heading, Change Heading and Drive, Stop

- Complete Motor and Azimuth Drive Hardware
- Establish Basic Wireless Control of Thrust and Azimuth
- Program TT8 Interface to Compass
- Implement Closed-loop Heading Control, Taking User Commands and Heading Data and Calculating Thruster Azimuth Command
- Demonstrate
5-8 Integration of Acoustic System and Vessel

Field Work
Lab notebooks, 1/3 due

Short written report due
9-12 Finish Field Work

Data Analysis
Homework 1 due

Lab notebooks, 2/3 due

Group presentation due
13-15 Data Analysis

Final Documentation and Presentation
Homework 2 due

Draft of final report due

Final presentation to department due

Final report due

Lab notebooks, 3/3 due