Design of Systems Operating in Random Environments >> Content Detail



A list of topics covered in the course is available in the calendar below.

Philosophy and Goals

Courses 2.017 and 2.019 are the capstone design courses of the Ocean Engineering curriculum and they give you the opportunity to integrate your total engineering knowledge in the design, construction, and testing of a complex ocean system. Modern ships, submarines, offshore platforms and other marine structures are complex systems composed of many dynamically interacting parts. The function of such a system is critically dependent on the coordination of these parts or subsystems. For example, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) may have numerous sensors and actuators, each of which may be a complex computer-controlled system in itself. The AUV's main computer must be able to interrogate the sensors, interpret the data streams and send the proper commands to the actuators, at the right times, in order for the vehicle to perform its mission while maintaining dynamic stability and structural integrity. To achieve this degree of coordination it is necessary to understand the characteristics of the individual subsystems, how they interact with one another, and their roles in the overall function of the vehicle. Course 2.017, and its companion course 2.019, will give you hands-on experience with the analysis and design of such complex ocean systems.

Subject 2.017 starts off with the design challenge statement, in which we outline a particular marine system with specific performance characteristics, to be developed over the course of the year. There are three primary activities in support of the design challenge:

  1. Lectures, examples, and discussions on specific technical topics that you may have not seen in your previous course work, e.g., on the principles of engineering design and engineering ethics.
  2. Laboratory experiences designed to acquaint you with the technology you will be using in your system.
  3. The analysis of the Challenge and the actual design of your system.

Initially all three activities will happen in parallel but as the semester wears on we will focus more exclusively on the design of your system. Course 2.019 focuses on the integration and testing of your system and the ultimate test of determining if it meets the stated challenge.

Grading Policy

Design Work (Individual)10%
Lab Notebooks (Collected Three Times, Individual)5%
First Iteration Report (Group Grade)5%
Second Iteration Report (Group)5%
Milestones (Group)25%
All Milestones Completed by Last Day of Class (Group)5%
Presentation Draft (Group)2%
Report Draft (Group)3%
Presentation as Given (Group)10%
Final Report (Separately-authored Sections)25%
Attendance and Participation (Individual)5%

Details on Grades

Please note that missed assignments (except for milestones) cost 20% each weekday, so that after five weekdays there are no points left. Example: We receive a ten-point item two days late. We grade it a "9", based on full credit, and then we subtract four points. You end up with five points.

The design work is assigned like regular problem sets, but is intended to focus you specifically on the areas needed for your project. We expect to receive separate solutions from each student, but you are encouraged to develop understanding and solution strategies together.

The first and second design iterations are not necessarily formal reports, but instead are "packages" of materials needed to communicate to us your ideas. We want to know how you frame the problem, the alternatives you consider, modeling and experimental work done and what you learned, from it, as well as all the known parameters of the design itself. You may re-use materials from the first iteration in the second iteration, as appropriate.

Meeting milestones is critical for completing work on time. In a section below is listed what you need to achieve, and when, to get the full twenty-five points as a group. Most of the tasks are suitable for small groups, and hence we expect to see between two and four names on most milestone coverpages.

The final presentation is about 45 minutes long and is given to a non-specialized audience made up of department faculty, students, and invited guests.

The written report is your "permanent" contribution on the topic. As such, it needs to be the most polished - refined, clear and good-looking.

Overall, written and oral reports are graded on the following merits:

  • Clarity of Presentation
  • Technical Soundness
  • Organization and Cohesiveness
  • English Usage

Attendance and Participation

Each person has to contribute in lab and in discussions; this starts with good attendance, and paying attention. No unexcused absences are permitted. An excused absence consists of at least two parts: a) you send us a request, b) we respond that you are excused - both have to occur before the class or lab session that you will miss. If you are sick or have another excusable situation, we need a note from Medical or the Dean of Student Affairs. If you have a family emergency, you are expected to clear it with the Counseling and Support Services office. In the event of an excused absence it is your responsibility to make up any lost work. Please don’t make us lower your grade because of something as silly as attendance!

Some Grade Scenarios

Your basic grade will be a "B" if you adequately perform the work required of you in this course. If your performance is outstanding then you will earn an "A." If your performance is under par then your grade will be lower than a B; the actual grade will depend on how under par. The following are specific examples of hypothetical students who earned a "C," a "B," and an "A." In all three cases the students produced the same physical product, cracked, taped-up fins. However each student ended up with this unhappy result following a different path. These scenarios stress that it is the way in which you approach your work that is important, not necessarily the technical quality of the end product.

"C" student - Student X is charged with building fins for the vehicle. Student X ordered the fin stock and was given some references on how to hand fabricate an airfoil-shaped fin. Student X proceeded to not read the material, leave the fin stock on the shelf and go off and help other students do machining, which Student X liked better than building the fins. Near the end of the project Student X tried to make the fins. It turned out that the fin stock was too brittle and the fins cracked, there was no time to buy new fin stock so the fins end-up taped together.

"B" student - Student Y has the same task as Student X. He/she ordered the fin stock and obtained information on how to build the properly shaped fins. Upon receipt of the fin stock student Y worked reasonably hard on trying to make fins out of fin stock that was clearly inadequate (too brittle). Student Y tried repeatedly and with great care to build the fins according to the given procedure but to no avail; the end product was taped-up fins.

"A" student - Student Z has the same task as Student X. Like student Y, he/she obtained the fin stock, read the information and attempted to make a fin. Seeing that the fin stock was inadequate Student Z started two parallel projects. The first was to modify the fin making procedure to enable the use of the fin stock in hand. The second was to find fin stock material that could withstand the fabrication technique. Unfortunately, both efforts failed despite a lot of hard work and experimentation on the part of Student Z. The end result was taped-up fins.

Importance of Personal Communication

One major part of participation is providing constructive criticism for your classmates. At times, we will ask you to critique the ideas of others - and it should become a natural dynamic within the group.

The usual result of any self-organization process is that certain students are assigned to work on specific tasks. This is sometimes unfair - if you are not particularly interested in the task, or the task turns out to be more difficult than what was expected. A negative spiral can occur as you get more and more frustrated, and disconnected with the group. Don't let this happen to you. Communicate with your colleagues and with your instructors!

The Milestones

A milestone is completed when a demonstration is shown and the documentation is signed by one of the instructors. Use the cover pages we provide; the material attached to it must describe in sufficient detail the procedures used (referencing prior documents as necessary) and the results obtained. One or two pages will be acceptable in most cases. You will fill out two cover pages, with hardcopy of the documentation attached; we will sign both, and keep one. It is your responsibility to arrange with the instructors if you need a signature outside of regular lab times! If the date is missed, the points are gone, although in certain cases (e.g., new equipment) we may make extensions.


1Introduction to the Class, Challenge, Laboratory Procedures

Linear System Dynamics
Discussion of Challenge
2Wave Spectra

Physics of Acoustics
Programming C on the TattleTale (1/2)

Programming C on the TattleTale (2/2)
Design work 1 due

Milestone #1
3AcousticsMATLAB® Programming

Analog Data Acquisition and Compass
Design work 2 due

Milestone #2, #3, and #4
4Electronics and Embedded Computing Basics

Vessel Hydrostatics and Stability
Serial Communications and the GPS Receiver

First design iteration due (includes principal dimensions, weight, layout, power and electrical design, etc. and list of researched components and lead times)

Collect Lab Notebooks 1

Milestone #5, #6, and #7
5Probability and Random Variables

Long- and Short-term Statistics
Critique Initial Design, Review and Order System Components

Return Lab Notebooks 1

Design work 3 due

Milestone #8, and #9
6Concepts of Design

Experiments, Data, Testing, and Presentation
LabDesign work 4 due

Milestone #10 and #11
7Feedback Control (1/2)

Feedback Control (2/2)
Milestone #12, #13, and #14
8Maneuvering of Vessels

Fluid Forces on Floating Bodies
Review and Order System Components, Based on Second System Design

Collect Lab Notebooks 2

Second design iteration due

Milestone #15, #16, #17, #18 and #19
9Engineering Ethics - Case Studies (1/2)

Engineering Ethics - Case Studies (2/2)
LabReturn Lab Notebooks 2
10Navigation SystemsLabMilestone #20 and #21
11Speed Effects and Seakeeping

Resistance and Powering of Vessels
LabMilestone #22 and #23
12World Energy and Environmental Topics

Optimization Principles
LabDraft of presentation due

Milestone #24 and #25

Practice Presentation
Return draft of presentation; Provide critique

Draft of written report due
14LecturePresentation to the Department (Monday afternoon)

Return draft of written report

Collect Lab Notebooks 3

Written report due


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