UCL Mechanical Engineering students compete in international energy efficient boat contest

1 September 2016

Six UCL students spent a week on Lake Geneva competing in the HYDROS Foundation’s 2016 Hydro Contest. UCL’s Team Triumph successfully designed, built and piloted an energy efficient boat in their very first year of entering the competition.

Team Triumph with boat

L→R: Gauthier Cotton De Bennetot, Mark Selfridge (Supervisor), Charlie Watts (Team Leader), Thomas Nivet, Graeme Cottrell, Alexi Carydias and Sophia Ziyat

The Lausanne competition is the first dedicated to marine transportation energy efficiency, a crucial issue for global carbon emissions, and attracted 24 international teams in 2016. Entrants design, build and remotely pilot boats in several competition categories, including cargo carrying, high speed and endurance. Success is all about efficient hull design: teams are given the same propulsion unit and battery, and entries must fit in 2.5m x 2m x 1.5m.

After finishing their final exams, the UCL team (Gauthier Cotton De Bennetot, Charlie Watts, Thomas Nivet, Graeme Cottrell, Alexi Carydias, Sophia Ziyat and supervisor Mark Selfridge) took their design, based on the three hulled tri-maran designs invented at UCL in the nineties, to compete in three sub-events: cargo carrying, speed and endurance. Team Triumph successfully entered the cargo-carrying category, bearing 200kg of steel ballast, and achieved a time of 3 minutes 44 seconds, coming 14th out of 24 teams in the category. The high speed category proved trickier, with cooling system and steering problems prevented a team time in the first qualifying session. After some handy work and a trip to a hobby shop, they were able to qualify with a time just outside the top sixteen.

For the final endurance round, Team Triumph took the strategic decision to deploy their sturdier, cargo-carrying vessel due to the risk of collisions from the other 24 craft in the water. This design requires more ballast than the 20kg competition minimum to achieve its designed operation: but despite carrying 80kg more than the minimum and an early battery death, Team Triumph finished in a credible 12th position overall. All the competition was close – see for yourself on the Hydros site.

Charlotte Watts, Team Leader, described the experience:

“The week was incredible, it was such a lively group of people to be working alongside and learning from. Getting to see all our hard work out on the water was such a satisfying experience and we are so proud to have made it into the qualifying rounds. If only we could go back next year!”

Team supervisor, Dr Mark Selfridge, said:

“This is UCL’s first entry to the competition, and what a statement the team have made by successfully qualifying and racing: a feat that not many HYDROS first-timers manage. HYDROS 2016 has provided the team with skills and experience to draw on with your future careers, and is a great experience for young engineers: many thanks to the HYDROS foundation for this opportunity. We are already planning for success in 2017!”

The team were kindly supported by Vinci Energies, the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, CD Adapco, D2W (the 3D printers who printed the foils), UCL’s Mechanical Engineering Department and the Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (NAME) Office, and thank all their sponsors for this opportunity.

They also thank staff for their advice and help, including Dr Tim Baker for leadership, Prof Yiannis Ventikos, Departmental Head, for support and funding, Martina Bertazzon for administrative assistance, model builder Richard Pierce, the workshop staff and Peter Kelly for construction assistance, Prof Giles Thomas who identified the competition, staff and research assistants (particularly Ema Muk-Pavic and Andrea Grech La Rosa) within the NAME Office, and to Prof Wrobel for financial support, interest and for suggesting the team name (a hybrid of the historical reference ‘tri’ for trimarans, and ‘umph’ for ‘giving it some welly’!).





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