2015 Update

Hello everyone, we would like to bring you up to speed on what we are up to.  Work has been progressing since September on a a brand new boat that will also feature some of the most advanced software we have written yet. This new boat will be competing in Sailbot 2015 which is in St. John’s Newfoundland this coming June.  Pictures of construction will be coming soon.

This is also a good opportunity to state that we are hiring two students for this summer.  If you are in mechanical, or software engineering, and are interested, please apply on Queen’s Career Services under SWEP positions.  The ID numbers are 64231 and 64233 respectively.


Official Water Test 2: Announcment

We will be testing the Gaelforce XL tomorrow:

Saturday August 16th
Portsmouth Olympic Harbor
Kingston Ontario

Sorry for the short notice, the decision to test was made difficult by an electronic component that burned out several days ago. However, we managed to find a replacement just in time. Assuming the weather conditions are acceptable, we plan to sail!

Anyone interested in watching is encouraged to attend. Look for the big orange U-Haul truck, we’ll also have a sign.

Please send a message if you are interested, either through facebook or sailboat@engsoc.queensu.ca

Software dev timelapse

Sort of for fun, had the computer take a screenshot every second while implementing a software component. Its a bit long, so you can skip to the end to see the result of the effort.

Chase-boat motor test

Getting ready for the first test, we spent a few days going over testing equipment. Most challenging was fixing up the two outboard motors we have for our crash-boat Zodiac. We managed to get one of the motors started, but its cooling system wasn’t working. This video is of the second motor, which took longer to start, but has been working flawlessly since.

PCB Building timelapse

The PCB’s are now built and are just going through the first stages of testing. They are integrated into the boat and will be powered on shortly.

In the meantime, here is a video time-lapse of the build process.

New electronics PCBs

The second iteration of our electronics PCBs have come back from the manufacturer. We have made many revisions from the original design, and the complexity of the wiring in the computing box should be halved. Making the wiring less complex is essential in being able to diagnose when things go wrong.

Barnacle board v1.0

Barnacle board, secondary Arduino

Ahab v1.1, latest and greatest Arduino Mega shield

Ahab v1.1, latest and greatest Arduino Mega shield

We will be taking a time lapse of the construction process (soldering on all the components). Expect updates soon. Furthermore, we expect to have the boat on the water for its first test soon.

Progress update – Fully functional electronics

I’ve allowed too much time to pass since the last post, a lot of progress has been made since the last one.

Cleaner electronics layout

Cleaner electronics layout

The box with all the computing components has been cleaned up. We tested the current setup thoroughly and discovered some changes that need to be made to the custom circuit boards we use. More on that further down.

Better handling of power connections

Better handling of power connections

Part of the key was looking at how we managed power connections to all the components. We added boards with lots of connectors on them for powering components. Before that everything had to be screwed into the posts in the middle, which turned out to be really difficult to manage.

Support unit

Secondary Arduino support unit

We added a second Arduino (computer) to the electronics to handle some time-critical events that would have made programming difficult on the main Arduino. But the one pictured above is just for getting the prototype figured out, we have sent a new circuit board for manufacturing that will integrate the chip below.

A much smaller version of the secondary arduino

A much smaller version of the secondary arduino

We’re really looking forward to getting the circuit board that this smaller Arduino will fit into. It will clean up the electronics even further and allow more room for a couple other components we want to add.

One of the challenges, is knowing the position of the motors that control the sails, and exactly how much they are turning at any given time. We added a very accurate optical encoder unit to the bottoms of our motors. This way any movement will show up in the software that runs the boat.

Motor with encoder assembly attached

Motor with encoder assembly attached

Finally, here is the latest picture of the boat all set up. We performed a quick check on all the systems, and everything is turning out better than expected. All sensors and motors respond as expected, and software has been written to diagnose the state of everything so that we can be sure the boat is working when we test.

Boat in the bay for testing

Boat in the bay for testing

We plan to put the boat in the water soon. We had hoped to have the boat on the water already but have experienced some unfortunate mechanical issues. More on that in a later post.