Continuum logo

This week was a fairly busy week, having lab sessions and other lessons. However, on Thursday, we were able to take a short break, visiting companies that were based in Boston. We dropped by NuTonomy, a self-driving car startup and Continuum, a consulting firm that uses a design approach for their clients. It was interesting to understand their business model and how the design process that we learnt in building our boats was applicable to so many other things. We got to see a self-driving car upclose and personal in NuTonomy and went through the Continuum design process and how it was applicable to their clients.

The highlight this week is the full boat test – bringing our boat to sail into the Charles River for the first time. To prepare for this critical milestone, we had to ensure that our boat had working electronics and drivetrains to power the boat through the water. Also, our boat had to have splash covers over critical areas to prevent water from entering our boat when a waves crashes into it. For my group, we had a full splash cover at the front and back of the boat, where the batteries and electronics were placed at.

Aligning the back cover

To prove that our electronics and drivetrains were in working condition,  we had to do a test run in the IDC garage. It could be potentially dangerous as the propeller could possibly fly off the shaft and cause serious damage, especially to the humans who happen to be near the propeller. Hence, we cordoned the boat in a corner of the shop, shielded on 3 sides by 2inch foam boards. Then we turned on the motor and watched the propeller spin at halfspeed for 4 minutes. Most of the groups had no trouble at all and made it to the full boat test the next day. (Except for squid, who had trouble with the drive train shaft)

Lobster’s Testing

Having passed the test, we had to bring our boats down to the river. It was a good 10 minute walk. This time the boat was a lot heavier than the float test, weighing about 150kg in total. It was quite tough to bring the boat to the water as we had to bring the boat down the stairs and through a narrow door of the MIT Sailing Pavilion. Our boats had to be tilted to go through the door. With such a heavy load, it took around 8 people to carry each boat through the door and then down a flight of stairs to reach the riverside.

Walrus going into the sailing pavilion

We were almost ready to go sailing in the Charles! We just had to lower our boat into the river and get our driver into the boat. Twas another backbreaking lift. (thankfully for a much shorter distance). We just had to hold the boat to the dock while our driver climbed into the boat.

Lowering our boat
Leon from Starfish getting into the boat

Soon, we were up and raring to go. However, 2 of the wires connecting the electronics to the drive train fell out and we had to do last minute “repairs” to get the propeller to move.

Fixing the electronics in the back of the boat

Now we were ready to take on the Charles! Leon gently pushed the accelerator and the boat took off in the water. It was an exciting moment for all of us, as our boat was the first boat to go into the water. Here is the video of the boat in action!

Next was Lobster’s boat which turned beautifully in the water with their small little rudder.

Lobster getting ready to sail

Lastly, it was Walrus’ turn. Their boat was tall and wide with the hydrofoil attached to the base of their boat so they had difficulty lowering the boat into the water. Although there were a few hiccups, they too conquered the Charles.

Tze How from Walrus sailing

It was an exciting Sunday afternoon and we were all pumped up for race day knowing that the choppy Charles didn’t take us down.

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