Sustainable ship bound for the finish line


On July 21, five mechanical engineering students will jet to the finish line of a senior design project that was two years in the making.

In spring 2020, two senior design teams’ dreams of building the electrically propelled boat they had spent the year designing were cut short due to COVID-19. But come fall 2021, the Department of Mechanical Engineering formed a new team to finish what they started: to create an eco-friendly boat to compete at the American Society of Naval Engineers’ (ASNE) annual Promoting Electrical Propulsion competition.  

Team members Dhawal Bhanderi, Aaron O’Connell, Kevin Parker, Hannah Thompson, and Danial Alborzi had access to designs and notes from the previous two teams that they worked from. “Having the previous work was helpful to get our background knowledge and catch up, but we decided to make some changes due to budget and building constraints,” says Bhanderi.

The team presenting their boat at the Department of Mechanical Engineering's senior design day. 

Contrary to the original team’s designs, Bhanderi and his team chose to build a single-hulled unmanned boat using the same modified propulsion system as the previous team. “We wanted to keep it simple and use the same materials they had. The original team designed a trimaran, but because of how large that boat would be, we didn’t have any way to build it. The MIX was shut down due to the pandemic, so we didn’t have access to the 3D printer we would need,” says O’Connell.

Because the team knew their boat would race others at the competition, they designed it with speed and viability in mind. “Our main focus was building a battery-powered boat that could last those five miles,” says O’Connell. “But we want to win too, of course,” says Bhanderi. 

The result was a 7-foot long, eight-horse-power unmanned boat that the team couldn’t be happier with. The students tested their ship before presenting it to faculty, peers, and industry sponsors at the department’s senior design day. “We were celebrating when we saw it working in the water,” says Bhanderi.  

And while they’re excited to see the fabrication of the boat finally reach completion, they are even more excited to bring it to ASNE’s competition.