College students build robotic boat in Rhode Island

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Bucknell University engineering student Daniel Flanigan and his friends worked all summer in hopes of launching Scout — a 12-foot autonomous robotic boat designed to cross the Atlantic Ocean, relying only on preprogrammed commands and information it can collect about its environment through sensors.

According to the project website, Scout “is built to deal with anything the ocean can throw at it” and its status will be reported live online.

Funded through a Kickstarter set up by Dylan Rodriguez, Flanigan tells ProBoat Radio that what started as a casual conversation soon turned into reality.

The principals of the project are students with an average age of 21 and they worked all summer in their spare time to make Scout a reality. The home base for the project is Tiverton, R.I., and each of the partners has grown up around boats, especially sailboat racing.

They’d also had some experience building canoes and small boats. One member, Max Kramers, has already worked on the shore crew for Team Oracle. (Max’s father, designer Dirk Kramers, contributed design expertise to the project.)

The Scout team learned that their combined knowledge was enough to support their plans. Flanigan says he especially liked learning about the materials and the boatbuilding process. Other team members greatly increased their knowledge of electronics, hydrodynamics and marine engineering.

The current boat is Scout IV. The smaller, earlier prototype wasn’t big enough to carry the solar panels needed for the trip.

At this point, Scout is a little behind schedule.

“All summer, we’ve been saying, ‘Two weeks!,’ ” Flanigan told ProBoat Radio. “But now we’re saying, ‘Next year.’ We’ve put too much into it not to wait and do it right. We have time to focus now on publicity and get more people excited about it.”

They also plan to do much more testing so it really is ready to deal with anything the ocean can throw at it.

Click here for the full report.

Click here for the interview of Flanigan by ProBoat Radio.

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