ERI Funded Projects: Izzy Rico exploring ocean engineering with SeaTech at Florida Atlantic University!

Hello, my name is Izzy Rico. I’m a sophomore at Vassar and a prospective chemistry major. This summer I worked as an intern at Florida Atlantic University at their institute for ocean and systems engineering called SeaTech. I was mentored by the director of SeaTech, Dr. Manhar Dhanak, who specializes in a variety of topics including ocean turbulence, physical oceanography and flow modeling.  I was involved in the development and modeling of various systems for an unmanned surface vehicle (USV), which could be used for oceanographic data collection or military purposes. I worked directly on two projects, the first being modeling various parts onboard the vehicle using Solidworks, a computer-aided design (CAD) software. The other project, which I focused most of my time on, was the development of a code to account for wind forces during anchoring or station-keeping maneuvers of the USV. In accounting for the force of the wind, the USV can be more efficient in maintaining its position in the water. This, in turn, helps reduce the amount of energy the USV has to use to correct for environmental factors during anchoring. I was required to work with an Arduino board in order to take wind velocity data from a weather station on the USV, convert it to wind force, and then communicate these values to the steering system to allow for correction. 

In addition to the aforementioned projects that were mostly limited to computer work, I was able to go out on SeaTech’s research boat and assist in multiple data collecting missions of a BlueFin autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). I had a lot of fun learning about path planning for this vehicle and all the challenges that come with collecting data from the open ocean. Below is the view from the boat off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale. 

I had very little engineering experience at the outset of the summer, so the main goal of this internship was to gain exposure to the processes and technologies needed to tackle complex engineered projects such as the production of the USV. Though I don’t think I’ll be pursuing a career in engineering, I really enjoyed learning the basics of coding and being introduced to a 3D modelling software. These skills will undoubtedly be useful no matter what field I enter in the science realm.

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