Stephen Wood, PH.D., P.E, Associate Professor in Ocean Engineering at Florida Institute of Technology
Stephen Wood is one of our newest Administrative Committee members and is highly involved in areas, such as autonomous vehicles, a technology area that OES is actively promoting. The following covers his goals and thoughts regarding his passion—research and teaching.
My research passion and expertise are in robotic underwater vehicles, with add-on investigations in ocean energy, material coatings, and design engineering. What ties these diverse areas together is my background in mechanical design engineering (URI and Oregon State) and in ocean engineering (U-Miami). I am the founder and director of the Underwater Technology Lab at Florida Tech which is the primary research and teaching home for over 50 graduate and undergraduate students every year. Currently, my primary research focus is on underwater ordinance recovery and stealth vehicles.
Before getting into the systems I developed, let me provide a little background about myself. Of course, there is the scuba diving, where you will find me during the summer months diving with Seafarer Exploration where we are mapping and soon recovering and conserving artifacts from the 1715 Spanish Galleon, the Santisima Trinidad y Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. Then there is the mountaineering where I head to the pacific northwest to climb various mountains such as Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, Mt Olympus or hike various parts of the Pacific Crest Trail. Also, during the summer, I take students on multi-week research training cruises to the Dry Tortugas and around the Florida Keys. Of course, I must mention that I am writing text books on Underwater Acoustics, Ocean Engineering, and Underwater Archaeology Engineering. To top it all off, I am writing a series of STEM novels for eleven and twelve-year-old girls based on the oceans and ocean engineering. Once these books are done I plan on a series of “For Dummies” books with respect to ocean technologies.
My underwater vehicles research has developed the following systems: 1 crawler system, 2 surface autonomous/remotely operated vehicles (ASVs/ROVs), 3 standard ROVs, a combination remotely operated pontoon boat with and attached remotely operated ordnance recovery ROV, 2 standard torpedo AUVs, 2 gliders, 2 flume test systems.
In ocean energy, with direct involvement of my senior undergraduate students, we developed 3 different types of ocean energy systems. The projects resulted in several deployments that culminated in our current energy harvesting prototype, the Wing Wave (see following figure). In addition to generating industry funding (Clean-and-Green Ltd. & SebaiCMET Ltd. are local companies taking my ocean energy research and putting it into commercial viable systems), the Wing Wave has drawn the attention of National Geographic as well as MSNBC news. Currently, I am investigating the optimum propeller that should be used to harness low velocity ocean currents, while also being environmentally friendly and not harming endangered animals such as whales and sea turtles. I am currently preparing an NSF grant proposal for twin counter-rotating turbines to be developed and deployed in the Gulf Stream based on the propeller studies. I have secured continuous funding of these projects through various corporate grants, supporting the development, construction, and testing of these systems for the last 10 years.
Underwater Technology Lab (UTL)
As the director of UTL, I consider it paramount to engage graduate and undergraduate students in my two primary research interests: Ocean Energy and Autonomous / Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles. As head of the Underwater Technology Lab, I am currently mentoring 30 students: 10 graduate students on theses and dissertations (AUVs, Gliders, ASVs, Instrumentation, and Ocean Energy systems) and 20 undergraduate students. It has been observed that graduate students are attracted to my lab in high numbers because UTL offer opportunities in marine robotic and ocean energy research development that are not available at other institutions. My graduate students are hired into prominent industry and government positions because of their electrical, mechanical and software engineering knowledge in addition to their ocean engineering skills. For example, one is a manager at Bluefin Robotics, one at the Naval Underwater Warfare Center in Rhode Island, three students are at the American Bureau of Shipping, five students at NAVSEA and the Columbia Group in Panama City, two with Oceaneering and many more throughout the country. On the industry side, Harris corporation, Northrup Grumman and the Hunter Foundation have invested 10’s of thousands of dollars in pilot projects/studies for my research that involves primarily undergraduate students. https://www.mtsociety.org/education/competitions.aspx