Maritime students at The University of Tasmania are being faced with real-life engineering challenges in an area related to “cutting-edge maritime technology in autonomous vessels”.
Around 60 first-year engineering students have been taking part in a hands-on challenge this semester to design, build and program an autonomous boat within design rules and a strict budget.
When built, their boats had to be programmed to manoeuvre through a marked channel in the model test basin at the Australian Maritime College, which is part of the university. Cameras and acoustic sensors were attached for guidance.
The challenge was a joint project from two first-year engineering subjects - design and communication, and programming and problem-solving, AMC said.
As part of the design component, the engineering students were required to design and build the boat to house sensors, electronics, motors and its payload, a can of soft drink. For the programming side, they had to program the sensors and electronics to power and manoeuvre the boat.
Maritime engineering student, Callum Thompson-Young, said he enjoyed the challenge because it was all about problem-solving.
“We got to design and then test, then see the problems, redesign, build and test again,” he said.
Collaboration was an important aspect of the project for the students.
“At the start, we got our whole team together to decide who works best in what areas,” Callum explained.
“So, we had a couple of our members working on the report and research side, where another member would do the designing of the boat and the building, and another member would work on the programming side of it.
"We’d all help each other and come back and put it all together so it created one finished project.”
AMC lecturer Thomas Mitchell Ferguson said the challenge provided an opportunity to develop the engineering students’ computer design and programming skills, as well as honing their practical skills.
“It allows them to build not only their technical knowledge and skills, but also their ability to communicate and collaborate as part of a team working towards a common goal," he said.