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On May 2, 2019, members of the IEEE Providence Section and the OE22 Chapter gathered at White’s Restaurant in Westport, MA for a joint social half-hour and dinner before attentively enjoying the technical presentation “Free Wind or Bought Wind?: Shifting Power Generation at Sea over Two Centuries.” The lecturer, author John Laurence Busch, is an independent historian who focuses upon the interaction between humanity and technology, specializing in 1st and early 2nd generation steam-powered vessels. His book on the first steamship in history, entitled “STEAM COFFIN: Captain Moses Rogers and The Steamship Savannah Break the Barrier,” has received positive reviews from over two dozen periodicals and academic journals in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. For more information, visit www.steamcoffin.com.
In his presentation, Mr. Busch chronicled the long evolution from natural power to artificial power at sea, breaking down the development from both a “steamboat” and “steamship” perspective.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the human race remained—practically speaking—in the same place it had been for millennia. Humans were beholden to the omnipotence of Nature, meaning the only way to move themselves from one place to another was by natural means. On land, this meant foot, hoof, or wheel, all of which were powered by animals; on water, it was either human-driven paddles or wind-driven sails. There was little reason to believe human locomotion would ever be any different.
Then, in 1807, an American named Robert Fulton built and ran the first commercially successful “steamboat” in history. In so doing, Fulton achieved something epically important: he proved that humans could create an artificial power to alter where they were and when they were there to practical effect. No other invention had achieved such a thing, and accordingly, steamboats may be considered the first “high technology” in history.
But the transition from sail energy to steam energy was not immediate, or easy. Nor was the transition from steamboats running on rivers, lakes and bays to steamships capable of making trans-ocean voyages.
The author then analyzed modern-day efforts to re-introduce various forms of natural power to modern, artificially-powered commercial vessels, and the rationale for doing so. This included an analysis of the types of fuel used to power the “new mode of transport,” as well as efforts by the “old mode of transport” (i.e., sail) to compete, which led to a very long battle for supremacy at sea.
Technologies touched on included recent design proposals such as high profile sail-like hull shapes, and arrays of deck-mounted sail-like solar panel arrays. One particularly promising technology, which has seen a recent revival, is the Flettner rotor. A Flettner rotor is a smooth cylinder with disc end plates which is spun along its long axis and, as air passes at right angles across it, the Magnus effect causes an aerodynamic force to be generated in the direction perpendicular to both the long axis and the direction of airflow. First introduced on an experimental rotor ship in 1922, this technology is again being considered as a means to reduce both fuel costs and carbon emissions.
Finally, the possibility that other high technologies will revert to some or a greater share of natural power generation was explored, and how studying the initial development of these inventions might help show the way forward.
Singapore Chapter—A Workshop on Autonomous Marine Systems
Reported by Bharath Kalyan, Hari Vishnu, Venugopalan Pallayil & Ahmed Mahmood
The IEEE OES Singapore chapter organized its third annual workshop on Autonomous Marine Systems on 11 March, 2019, at the Singapore Polytechnic, following the 7th edition of the Singapore AUV Challenge (SAUVC) event. The workshop idea was started in 2017 with an objective of complementing the hands-on experience that the students had gathered through the competition, with further insights from experts in the field. The workshop was aimed at motivating the students to continue to pursue the field of autonomous marine technology and enhance their knowledge through a sharing and learning session. This year’s guest speakers included a good mix of experts from land and marine robotics and also representation from academia, industry, research institutions as well as student competition organisers and participants. This event also facilitated excellent networking amongst the AUV experts and the attendees, which included both student team members and external attendees. The talks were followed by a panel discussion. The focus of the panel discussion revolved around questions posed by the student attendees, which was collated via an online poll taken prior to the workshop.
The guest speakers included Dr. Gabriele Ferri, Assoc Prof Marcelo H. Ang, Jr, Ms. Kelly Cooper, Mr. Richard Mills, Mr. William J. Kirkwood and student Liu Ren Jie. Gabriele Ferri is a Research Scientist at the NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research & Experimentation (CMRE). He spoke on autonomous robotics networks for underwater surveillance. In this talk, he compared the performance of autonomous vehicles for surveillance applications when operated in a networked configuration as compared to a single AUV configuration. He also discussed the potential and challenges of such a configuration. Marcelo H. Ang, Jr is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering of National University of Singapore, delivered the second talk. He spoke on the impact of robotics in our daily lives and delved on the emerging applications in human robot interactions in unstructured environments. He also touched up on the state-of-the-art developments in sensing and intelligence to accelerate robotics revolution. Kelly Cooper is a Program Officer at the Office of Naval Research (ONR). She has been responsible for initiating a variety of student robotics competitions for the U.S. Navy, including the Maritime RobotX Challenge, RoboBoat and SeaPerch. In the post-lunch session, Kelly spoke about using a simulation environment (virtual competition) to enhance the performance of autonomous vehicles. Her talk was also an introduction to the Virtual RobotX competition, a new initiative by ONR. Richard Mills, who is the Director of Marine Robotics Sales with Kongsberg Maritime, spoke about improving productivity in deep water AUV surveys. He also discussed various sensing technologies that have gone into the HUGIN AUV including synthetic aperture sonar, multibeam echo-sounder, sub-bottom profiler, camera, laser, magnetometer and methane sensors. William J. Kirkwood is a senior R&D Engineer at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). He spoke about plastics in the food web, and how it was a problem that required future technology solutions. Bill discussed about microplastics and their impact on our oceans and in-turn, on humans. His talk also focused on advanced instrumentation and robotics that are able to identify these plastics and trace them to their source. Finally, we had one talk from a student, Liu Ren Jie, a 4th year Electrical Engineering student from the National University of Singapore and also is the technical lead of the Bumblebee team. He spoke passionately about team Bumblebee and how they managed the challenges of sustaining and growing a student-run team and covered topics ranging from knowledge management to competition preparations. The video recordings of these talks can be viewed at the following link:
www.youtube.com/user/ARLTMSINUSChannel/videos. All the talks were well-received by the attendees.
In the afternoon session of the workshop, a panel discussion by the experts on autonomous marine systems and competitions and careers in underwater technologies was organized. The questions taken up for discussion by the panelists, were collected via a student participant’s poll, the Pigeonhole App. The top 10 questions polled by the audience via an online poll were taken up at the discussion. The questions that were posed to the panel were:
- What career opportunities are available in underwater robotics?
- Tips to “debug” underwater robots during development?
- What role does ROS play in the development of underwater robotics?
- Any tips on how to build low-cost underwater robots?
- How to tackle challenges like Localization, navigation & communications?
- How does AUV research in Asia compare to Europe and North America?
- How can we better promote AUV activities in secondary schools?
- How can we harvest energy from the ocean for use by underwater robots?
- How to use underwater tech to solve ocean pollution problems?
- What is the role of swarm technology in underwater robotics?
The panel was moderated by Mandar Chitre, Associate Professor at National University of Singapore. Fausto Ferreira, a Research Scientist from at the NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research & Experimentation (CMRE) joined as a panelist along with William Kirkwood, Richard Mills and Kelly Cooper. All the questions posed via the poll were pertinent to student involvement in AUV technologies and competitions. They included queries on the future of AUVs, the benefit and career opportunities for students in this field, how to tackle some commonly faced issues in constructing AUVs and questions on real-world applications of AUVs. The questions saw some very animated involvement from the panel members, who all chipped in to give a well-rounded take on the students’ queries. Overall, the workshop turned out to be a useful learning experience for all the participants.
Apart from this workshop on the side-lines of SAUVC (the report is in this issue), we had two public engagement sessions which were conducted at Singapore Polytechnic on March 9th, 2019:
Singapore Robot Operating System (ROS) Meetup organized a session on practitioner’s guide to autonomous vehicle development. Dr. Benjamin Ma discussed about an on-going self-driving car project and provided an overview of future of autonomous vehicles.
The SAUVC LOC organized a tutorial session on “Introduction to underwater robotics.” The tutorial was led by Rajat Mishra, a graduate research student with National University of Singapore. At this session, we had a large representation from ANZA scouts with students in the age group of 8–17 years. This event was very well-received and we are planning on expanding the public engagement exercise for the next edition of SAUVC.
These workshops were very beneficial for the students, specifically for the teams who participated in the SAUVC event. This was evident from the excellent feedback we obtained through a survey. We propose to continue the organization of similar workshops alongside future SAUVC events. We would like to acknowledge our speakers for their inspirational talks and supporting this event.
Argentina Chapter—Post-degree Course: “Introduction to Underwater Acoustics”
Reported by Gerardo Acosta
During the days 26 to 30 of November 2018, the post-degree course “Introduction to Underwater Acoustics” was carried out at the city of Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Argentina. This course was given at the CENPAT (Centro Nacional Patagónico). Daniel Rodriguez, PhD (UDE, Spain) and Noela Sánchez Carnero, PhD (CESIMAR-CENPAT, Argentina) were the professors in charge. The course covered the theoretical principles of sound propagation in underwater environments, SONAR fundamentals and the working principles of the most common acoustic equipment for hydrographic, bottom and sub-bottom structures and fishery studies. A practical session on gathering and post-processing of Single Beam and Side Scan SONAR data was also carried out. The course concluded with a guided visit to the BIP Víctor Angelescu (INIDEP) and the oceanographic vessel ARA Austral (Q-21) moored at the local Luis Piedrabuena dock. Several professionals of diverse disciplines: physics, biologists, a geologist and engineer members of different institutions, participated in the course. Among these institutions were: INIDEP, Argentinean Antarctic Institute, CENPAT, INTELYMEC (FIO-UNCPBA) and other Nationals Universities. The IEEE OES sponsored some of the attendees.
Workshop: “Broadband Acoustics Advances and SIMRAD EK-80 Scientific Sound Applications”
Reported by Gerardo Acosta
During the past March 6 to 9 of 2019, the Workshop “Broadband Acoustics Advances and SIMRAD EK-80 scientific sound applications” was carried out at INIDEP facilities in the city of Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina, with the Hydro acoustic Cabinet Chief Eng. Adrián Madirolas as instructor. The workshop covered the theoretical and practical aspects of the broadband acoustics principles. Practical sessions of EK-80 data processing in classroom and EK-80 Split Beam transducer calibration at the oceanographic vessel ARA Austral (Q-21) were carried out.
People with different backgrounds, like physics, biologists, Argentinian Navy personnel, officers and sub-officers and engineer members of different institutions (INIDEP, Argentinean Antarctic Institute, Argentinian Navy Hydrographic Service, CENPAT, CADIC, UNIDEF, INTELYMEC (FIO-UNCPBA) and other Nationals Universities) attended the workshop that was sponsored by the local IEEE OES Chapter.
Reported by Khalid Isa
The first OTC Asia 2020 technical programme committee organisational meeting was held on 19 Feb 2019 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. IEEE OES was invited as the Programme Subcommittee. Khalid Isa, as the Chair of IEEE OES Malaysia Chapter, attended this meeting as the representative of IEEE OES. The agenda of the meeting is to discuss the programme structure and workflow. OTC Asia 2020 to be held 24–27 March 2020 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Malaysia.
Singapore Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Challenge (SAUVC 2019)
Reported by Mohd Shahrieel Mohd Aras
IEEE OES Malaysia Chapter has sent 4 teams. Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) Team are Panther, Tuah and Noah’s Arc are represented by students from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Faculty of Technology Engineering. Dr. Mohd Shahrieel Mohd Aras and Dr. Ahmad Anas Yusof is an Advisor for this team and also Vice Chair and an executive committee of the IEEE OES Malaysia Chapter. From International Islamic University Malaysia (UIAM), the Roboteam is lead by Dr. Zulkifli bin Zainal Abidin. Having completed the first task in the final round, the Panthers team has been ranked 4th place and IIUM Roboteam 5th place from more than 60 register team from Russia, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Industrial Lecture on RADAR Level Measurement Technology
Reported by Herdawatie Abdul Kadir and Khalid Isa
This event was held at the Innovation Lab. Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM). The invited speaker, Ir. Shah Rizal Dahlan from Petronas, gave a presentation on RADAR level measurement Technology. He provided both fundamental studies on the development and application of Radar as used for measuring level. We benefited in his availability in Petronas, Malaysia, due to his position as Custodian Engineer and Group Technical Authority for instrument and controls in PETRONAS. This talk was conducted on February 24, 2019, and attended by 15 IEEE members and 180 guests.
Robotics Operating System (ROS) Workshop
Reported by Herdawatie Abdul Kadir
On 3rd March 2019, The IEEE OES Malaysia Chapter organized a technical workshop ROS. The event took place at Innovation Lab, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM), Johor, Malaysia. The workshop was conducted by Dr. Abu Ubaidah Shamsuddin from UTHM. The purpose of the workshop was to share the fundamental behind the open source robotics framework using ROS Kinetic Kame is primarily targeted at Ubuntu. The workshop was attended by participants from various agencies, including representatives from the other university undergraduate and postgraduate students. The participants were divided into several groups that follow hands-on learning and in-depth explanation.