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Engineering Design:
RoBoat: An Autonomous Submersible Data Collection System

at Hobart and William Smith Colleges Hackathon

Fall 2019

In a group of four, our team took second place in a 24-hour hackathon dedicated to solving problems related to water pollution. 


While many teams tackled the problem directly by proposing businesses, technologies, or platforms to combat pollution, our team went with a different approach. The keynote speaker was Matthew Hoffman, an associate Professor in the School of Mathematical Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology. His research seeks to model the transport of microplastics in freshwater systems, and he cited the lack of data as a huge limiting factor in understanding microplastics and their impacts, as taking microplastic measurements is labor intensive and difficult to gather for multiple depths. 

Our solution was the proposal and design of a autonomous water drone that would measure microplastics concentration throughout the water column, giving information at all depths and positions over time. The design had room for other instruments to gather information like pH and dissolved oxygen, as well as the ability to store samples to be returned for lab analysis. A full CAD model was designed as an initial prototype, with fabrication in mind. 

This proposal included details on the prototyping and revision process, development, production, and maintenance and long-term support. The drones would rely on mesh networking, where multiple drones throughout a body of water would relay data to a base station allowing for near real-time data collection. 

More information about the Hackathon can be found in an article here, and the final PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded by clicking the icon below.  


Above: The top portion of the drone, providing power through solar panels, and housing the main control and communication systems.


Above: The bottom tethered portion of the drone, providing propulsion, the sensor suite, and housing for stored samples. 

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