March 2024 OES Beacon

The second Winter School on Underwater Network Simulations and experimentation

Filippo Campagnaro, University of Padova, Italy, and IEEE OES Young Professional boost laureate

The second Winter School on Underwater Network Simulations and experimentation (UNWiS) is now over. The school took place in Padova (Italy) from the 29th of January to the 2nd of February, 2024, and was organized by the Department of Information Engineering of the University of Padova and its startup company Wireless and More srl. It has been a very successful event, where about 30 students and professionals coming from all over the world exchanged ideas and opinions not only on underwater communication networks, but also on maritime technology and oceanic engineering, making UNWiS an occasion for very fruitful discussions.

Every day of the school was divided into two parts: frontal lessons in the morning, and hands-on exercises after lunch. A basic track for PhD students and professionals that approached the field of underwater networks for the first time, and an advanced track for fellow experts, allowed all the attendees to profitably improve their knowledge on this subject. The technical topics included a detailed review of underwater communication technologies, communication protocol for underwater multimodal acoustic and optical networks, and methodology on how to simulate and test underwater networks with the open-source DESERT Underwater Framework. Moreover, the attendees had the opportunity to test and evaluate underwater protocols with hands-on examples both simulating and testing the network with real acoustic modems provided by Evologics GmbH.

Figure 1: Lectures on ray tracing held by Filippo Campagnaro, University of Padova, Italy.

On February 1st, all attendees were engaged in a discussion organized by IEEE OES, where our YP boost laureate Filippo Campagnaro and our WIE propel laureate Sara Falleni presented the Young Professional boost and the Women in Engineering propel programs, and the OES initiatives. Interesting discussions on what the academy can do to get more people interested in oceanic engineering activities, and on how to get more women engaged in engineering, were held. They highlighted the need of organizing laboratories and dissemination events at primary school, to stimulate the curiosity of children with small experiments and hands on exercises. This will hopefully fill this traditional cultural gap that often sees women far apart from STEM activities.

In the same events, panelists with expertise in different fields explained how underwater communication is essential for many different applications, and which are the possible career jobs for people making a PhD in underwater communication. First, Dr. Davide De Battisti from the hydrobiological station Umberto D’Ancona highlighted how marine biologists and ecologists need automated systems to assess water quality and study climate change in a more profitable way. Second, Prof. Damiano Varagnolo (NTNU Norway and University of Padova, Italy) remarked that automated robotics operations for smart ports can be performed only if the underwater communication links between the robotics agents are stable; that is something really challenging to be achieved. Finally, the TV Davide Cosimo (CSSN, Italian Navy) presented the Italian Underwater National Hub, and of how underwater networks can be used for rescue operations and for coastal surveillance. The take home message from the panelists is using a vertical approach to work on marine science and oceanic engineering aspects might not be very fruitful, as the complex environment we need to face intrinsically implies a multidisciplinary approach, where unity makes strength.

Finally, every day all the participants of the winter school could enjoy some good Italian food, including wine, pasta, and pizza from local restaurants. A cultural visit to the great Sala dei Giganti and the ancient Palazzo Bo of the University of Padova (that with its 802 years is one of the oldest universities of the World) wrapped up the event, and many attendees then had the occasion to autonomously go to Venice (located 30 minutes from Padova) to enjoy the Carnival.

Figure 2: IEEE OES Young Professional boost and Women in Engineering propeller programs presented by our OES YP Boost WiE propeller 2023-2024 laureates.

Figure 3 (below left and upper right): Panel discussions that highlighted which are the possible career jobs for people making a PhD in underwater communication.
Figure4 Group picture of the winter school attendees in front of the Department of Information Engineering of the University of Padova, Italy.