This Thursday was the last day of Sailbot with one last race–the box course. The box course is a demonstration event aimed at showing off each boat’s autonomous ability. Officially called “Station Keeping,” the course is a 40 m x 40 m box. Each boat is allowed two timed runs and must stay within the box for five minutes. After five minutes, the boat must exit as fast as possible. The object is to record the smallest time–as long as you stay within the box for five minutes. It would appear obvious that you need a closed loop system (constantly reacting) to drive the boat and stay within the box right?
Without a working autonomous electronic system or a working manual electronic system we reverted to “Plan D.” TRST utilized an open control system (your toaster is an open control system). We programmed an Arduino Uno to keep our rudder straight for thirty five seconds, then move to a right standard rudder for 4 minutes 50 seconds. Afterwards, the rudder should return amidships so that F-dash can exit the box. That’s right, we programmed F-dash to do circles for five minutes, simple and inelegant it was destined to work. What could go wrong?…
In engineering, nothing goes to plan–even dumb, open control system robots. With two bad launches and an unexplained bug to our simple program, F-dash only remained inside the box for a minute. Although our ending to Sailbot was less than ideal, we left with a lot of knowledge about robotic sailing and ourselves.
TRST ended the competition in 5th place in a field of 11 boats. Congratulations to Albermale MESA High School, Newburyport High School, and Gloucester High School for achieving 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. These high school students are going to go on and do some awesome things. Sailbot is a great learning experience for anyone. The members of TRST are grateful for all the hard work Olin College did to organize a great regatta. We look forward to possibly participating again next year. For now, this will be our last post about Sailbot. TRST is ready to start working on our larger goal: Microtransat.