Robot + Sailboat = SailBOT: WPI Students Build Award-winning Autonomous Sailboat

This summer I learned a new word: “Sailbot.” I never knew there was such a thing, much less a competition for an autonomous sailboat, but there is…and it’s very impressive.  Apparently there are 12 challenges that the sailboat must complete during this student competition.  The most amazing part is that the boat (or bot) must constantly read the wind and change the sail based upon this input.  But, according to Hans Johnson, a senior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) majoring in Mechanical and Robotics Engineering, the most difficult part of the entire project is keeping all of the boat’s components dry.

I was very impressed with all of the work and thought that had to go into this project, from the design of the hull, sails, as well as the internal components, gears and electronics.  I thought back to my design days in college, and we had to build realistic prototypes, but that’s all they were, non-working prototypes. These students, however, have a full working boat with electronics, robotics, and gears: a full mechatronic smart product.

We had a chance to interview Hans and Nick Gigliotti, a recent WPI graduate, who built the boat together.  They provide more inside details about the project in this short video:

I suspect more engineering students and universities will follow WPI’s lead and develop more smart products, as this is the where the industry is heading.  I look forward to seeing them, and possibly learning more new words.

To learn more about how SOLIDWORKS is working with companies to develop the next-generation Smart Products, go here

Cliff Medling

Cliff Medling is a Senior Marketing Manager at SolidWorks and the host for the Born to Design Podcast.