Mano a mano with NASA

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Watershed Innovation’s new concept boat

Watershed Innovation’s new concept boat

About a year ago, Sean Marrero was on a camping trip with a group of families from the Orlando area. Some of the other campers knew that Marrero, chief strategy officer for Correct Craft, worked for a boating company. “One of the dads asked if we made a boat that would work well for fishing inland coastal waters,” he says. “We owned BassCat, but that boat was designed for going fast and fishing in fresh water. So I mentioned SeaArk as a possibility. His immediate response was that aluminum boats were not a good choice because they are too noisy.”

Marrero says he didn’t think too much about the conversation and just “filed it away.” But nine months later, shortly after being named president of Correct Craft’s new Watershed Innovation division, a proverbial lightbulb went off in Marrero’s brain.

Watershed had been formed by Correct Craft CEO Bill Yeargin to develop “disruptive innovations,” for the marine industry—in other words, fresh ways of design and manufacturing that had the potential to propel the industry in a radical new direction.

UCF students worked with Correct Craft’s Watershed division to create a much quieter aluminum boat.

UCF students worked with Correct Craft’s Watershed division to create a much quieter aluminum boat.

Marrero, who had graduated from the University of Central Florida, wanted to bring in “outside thinking” for his new Watershed division. “We started reaching out to other groups, including my alma mater,” he says. “When they told us about their senior design program, the idea from that camping trip popped back into my head.”

The neighbor’s aluminum boat comment seemed like an ideal project to Marrero and Yeargin, who viewed the jon-boat segment as having benefits like low price points and potentially high volumes, but with drawbacks like loud, slapping hulls.

Watershed put together a team of a dozen senior students from the electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and computer science departments at UCF. “The students really took the lead from there,” says Marrero. “They designed the boat we built, including all of the computational fluid dynamics, 3D-printed models to simulate the amount of noise on different shaped designs, and all of the CAD. They also built in their own sensors and PCB board to support a cloud database and mobile app.”

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Correct Craft recruited engineers at SeaArk to actually fabricate the boat and be a sounding board about design questions. “We didn’t want to design a boat that was un-buildable,” says Marrero. “SeaArk provided just enough input to give the students guardrails.”

Supplier SeaDek also provided technical advice and non-skid for further sound reduction, and Torqeedo contributed with electric outboards. “We wanted the boat to be fully electric,” says Marrero.

Starting last September, the students had an April deadline for the project, a few weeks before finals. They sent all data and files to SeaArk to cut and weld the aluminum boat.

When the project was unveiled last week, it looked very unlike a traditional jon-boat. Sound tests showed a 30% reduction in the sound of water slapping against the side of the hull versus a traditional jon boat (see video).

The Watershed project was one of 133 senior design projects on display at UCF’s annual showcase. Only Watershed’s and another project were chosen to go to the statewide showcase in Boca Raton this week. The other project was sponsored by NASA. “I won’t be too upset if our project gets beat by NASA,” says Marrero.

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Marrero doesn’t know if the student’s concept boat will ever go into production, saying it is being evaluated for price and potential customer demand. He is happy with the results. “Visually, it’s a departure from what SeaArk usually makes,” he says. “It could push them out of their comfort zone. The video we made really shows the difference between the styles and hull-slapping of the two boat styles.”

The partnership with the UCF seniors was a “win-win” for Correct Craft and the university. “They often get requests from companies but don’t always get the internal support that we provided,” says Marrero, who plans to work with future senior engineers. “We’ve got more than enough projects to send their way. We love the fact that they can coordinate multiple disciplines across the university.” 

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