Olin Sailbot Nearly Ready to Leave Dock

The Olin Sailbot team isn’t going it alone — It’s not going at all. That’s the idea, at least, for its 2012-13 club project, a large model-sized sailboat they hope is the next step to sailing autonomously across the Atlantic Ocean.

Sailbot's Chaos TheoryThe students have posted their progress online since the beginning of the academic year, starting with the design and forming of the initial tool to the composite layup and final construction. The Sailbot started with cutouts of MDF separating foam sheets, and carved into the final shape of the mold. They hope to have the project done by the school’s spring break, March 18-22, so they can test the new craft.

The club, started in 2011, also posted about its progress and accomplishments during the previous school year.

This year, the Sailbot team used a vacuum bag layup with a carbon-sandwich-carbon structure for the hull and a honeycomb structure for the deck. The sandwich core in the hull structure provided rigidity in place of internal ribs.

The Olin Robotic Sailing club is broken into subteams for the mechanical, electrical and computer coding components. The aim is to design an environmentally friendly mode of transportation, an alternative to gas-powered water vehicles, that can run without intervention. The team competes in the Robotic Sailing Regatta, an annual competition throughout held in the United States and Canada since 2006. This year, the race will be held June 9–13 in Gloucester, Mass.

The Sailbot is a club project from the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Olin College, in Needham, Mass., was founded in 1997 and has just 321 undergraduate students. The college, with an acceptance rate of 16 percent, was named one of Kaplan/Newsweek’s “25 New Ivies.”

Read more about the processes, mistakes, learning and testing of the Sailbot on the team’s site, OlinSailbot.com.

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