In this lovely class-free month of January, I have been working in the Deep Submergence Lab at WHOI, which is in Cape Cod- about an hour and a half away from Cambridge (also known as a popular vacation spot for New Englanders, although nobody is here in the frigid winter months).
Despite the weather, I came at a great time, since most details of the underwater vehicles that the lab is making were hammered out by the time I got here, they just needed to be assembled and tested. So I got to learn about all the subsystems and instruments: what they do, how they work and then get my hands dirty in putting it all together. Also, the people in this lab have been a great, easy-going group to work with. Best of all, people rarely work past 5 oclock or come in on the weekends :)
Once assembled, we went aboard WHOI's small research vessel and tested these autonomous 'bots in the harbor (yay for being right next to the ocean!) while the customers looked on. Maybe it's because the customers are getting these vehicles for so cheap relative to what underwater vehicles cost elsewhere, or maybe it's just how the oceanographic community operates, but nobody seemed stressed out or worried at all whenever we encountered problems here and there.
By the way, these vehicles are going to exotic locations like Hawaii and Puerto Rico...
Some of the crazy electronics that command the vehicles
Big battery packs;
Driving the forklift to move the vehicles around (I got to drive it too!)
Final deck test before going into the water
Lowering it in
Watching it go!
Video of its first succesful mission
The design of this vehicle is taken from the set of vehicles used in 2007 to explore the Arctic for hydrothermal vents. Lots of fun info on that expedition here:
Also, we put together a mock-up of one of the vehicles sent to the Arctic for the Museum of Science in Boston to hang for display. If you get a chance, go check it out! It is supposed to be there for a year starting today!