It’s been a while since anything has been posted to the website, but it’s time to fill everyone in on what’s been going on. The crew is back in Tiverton for a few weeks to do our best to finish SCOUT. The team has been taking advantage of the three week period at the beginning of summer when no one has jobs. This allows the team to work 12-16 hour days uninterrupted (except for mother’s day of course!)
The progress so far has been on both the physical and software aspects of the boat. Recently the team has laminated an additional ply of carbon on the fin keel to help increase torsional stiffness. This carbon was aligned at a 45 degree angle relative to the fin. If bottom growth wasn’t a problem we’d just clear coat the carbon (it’s beautiful) but we intend to do the bottom painting in a week or two, so we’ll only be able to admire it until then. Next up was a new water temperature sensor. Unfortunately the sensor that was installed a few months ago wasn’t responding well, so Brendan ground off the old sensor and installed a new one successfully.
As we learn more and more about how many of these systems work, we often find components that must be upgraded and improved. An example of this is the bilge pump. The original bilge pump wasn’t really built to handle full submersion for extended periods of time and operated on a timer instead of a float switch. Today the team completed the installation of a new low current draw pump to help keep SCOUT dry if any water does get inside the hull. There is always more physical work to be done, but the team is working hard to stay on schedule.
While the physical work plugs along, Dylan and Ryan work to keep the software and electronics on track. The key to the software and electronics side of things is testing. Over the past four days the team has had many ups and downs while testing. The first test was a pool test. SCOUT was placed in a pool and set to run for 10 hours so the team could create a voltage curve as the batteries were drained. The test went well, although we lost datalogging capabilities midway through because we used a shoddy USB cable. In typical SCOUT fashion, nothing ever works the first time (and often not the second, third, or the fourth time either. We’ve become used to it.)
The next test was an ocean test. We towed SCOUT out onto the Sakonnet river to help put the waypoint bypass software to the test. The test had interesting results. At first it seemed that the test was going well, but then SCOUT started turning in circles and headed off in the completely wrong direction, seemingly intent on running full steam into Portsmouth. A standard period of depression ensued because the team didn’t know what could have caused the issue, and we set to the now routinized task of transporting SCOUT back to the garage. Luckily, we discovered that a little water made its way into the compass assembly and resulted in faulty readings. This was on account of our deck sealing methods (when we seal the deck for testing, we usually use blue painter’s tape, which sticks well to the post-pealply carbon surface, unlike most tapes) and the weather (the test was planned for the early morning when the wind and waves would have been more calm, but the crew had a tremendously difficult time waking Dylan up after a long worknight and thus the test occurred post-noon.) We swapped out the compass in a couple of minutes and did a retest in which SCOUT performed flawlessly. This of course won’t be a problem on the crossing, as the compass will be sealed, the deck will be sealed, and we’ll maintain a healthy supply of coffee for the team members.
The next big step in the software development is the final code for the Iridum satellite transceiver system. Luckily for the team, our programming guru Ryan Muller will be down for a couple of days and will be invaluable to our success with the data transmission handling. It’s always great to have new faces at the SCOUT headquarters; hopefully we’ll soon have good news about the data transmission, especially since we’ve added pH, salinity, and dissolved oxygen sensors purchased from enthusiastic supporters of the project, Atlas Scientific.
Well, that’s all for now. We’ll do our best to keep everyone updated as we get closer to finalizing SCOUT for her transatlantic journey.