Anja Babić, Nadir Kapetanović, and Igor Kvasić
In the months since its official founding, members of the University of Zagreb IEEE OES Student Branch Chapter have been hard at work on several fronts.
Throughout March and April our student branch members took several trips in order to participate in conducting extensive bathymetric measurements in Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. This national park is the oldest and largest national park in the Republic of Croatia. The process of tufa formation, which results in the building of the tufa, or travertine, barriers and which resulted in the creation of the lakes, is the outstanding universal value for which the Plitvice Lakes were internationally recognized on 26 October 1979 with their inscription onto the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The lake system is comprised of 16 named and several smaller unnamed lakes, cascading one into the next. Due to the geological substrate and characteristic hydrogeological conditions, the lake system has been divided into the Upper and Lower lakes, ending in the impressive waterfalls Sastavci, with the Korana River springing under the base of the falls.
The goal of profiling and measuring the depth of the lakes was to enable detailed environmental monitoring of tufa formation and changes over time. Bathymetric surveys were performed by an autonomous surface vehicle named PlaDyBath, mounted with a multibeam sonar. The team surveyed three out of four of the Lower Lakes, and eight out of twelve of the Upper Lakes. Save for the two largest lakes in the park several years ago, these lakes had never previously been surveyed with sonar technology. Working in the unique and untouched environment of the national park, with often unwelcoming terrain as well as strict demands on preservation and high ecological standards, was challenging as well as extremely rewarding and made for a very useful and informative—and striking—experience.
Next, good use was made of a handful of sunny days in mid-April and several exciting field experiments at Zagreb’s popular lake Jarun were conducted, featuring new cooperative behaviours developed for marine robot interactions within the EU Horizon 2020 subCULTron project which the student chapter is heavily involved in. These tests in a realistic environment were conducted as part of preparations for upcoming field experiments and deployment in the Venice Lagoon in July 2019. There the robotic swarm will have to conduct autonomous long-term environmental monitoring of several critical points in the lagoon, in order to collect useful data on the anoxia phenomenon of changing oxygen concentration levels within the water.
Not neglecting the more academic side of things, members of the chapter took part in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing PhD Day. This is an event inspired by top universities from around the world, as an open gathering where doctoral students publicly present their research results, and everyone interested can get an insight into the diversity and quality of scientific work at the Faculty. Student chapter members presented their research and attended several interesting talks about experiences of young researchers in academia and industry, receiving useful advice, guidance, as well as a motivational boost for becoming successful doctoral students.
Furthermore, the IEEE OES student chapter members presented some of their work during the Croatian Science Festival which is a week-long outreach and dissemination event whose goal is to bring science closer to the general public. The manifestation is held simultaneously in the Technical Museum Nikola Tesla, most Croatian universities, and many museums in various cities. Its lectures, exhibitions, workshops, and presentations are designed for participants of all ages, so many elementary and high school students had a chance to see and learn something about marine robotics and the exploration of the underwater world.
Next to look forward to on the agenda is attending OCEANS 2019 in Marseille, where members of the student branch chapter will be presenting several papers, as well as getting to better know the wider IEEE OES community.