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Introducing Students To Ocean Engineering

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Capstone Experiences in OME Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.751.1 - 7.751.12



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Paper Authors

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Thomas Consi

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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Session ___

Introducing Students to Ocean Engineering

Thomas R. Consi MIT Dept. of Ocean Engineering, Cambridge, MA

Abstract Ocean Engineering is a complex multidisciplinary field involving sub-disciplines such as fluids, acoustics, and control systems, that undergraduates either never see or experience only in upper level classes. The problem, then, is how to introduce this subject to beginning students – freshmen who have enthusiasm, energy, and interest but not the necessary background to delve deeply into the subject. To solve this problem we have, for the past 4 years, been running a spring seminar class aimed exclusively at freshmen with the goal of introducing the broad sweep of ocean engineering disciplines in a way that is both engaging and tractable to the students. The core activity of this class is the construction and testing of a simple remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) made out of PVC pipe, toy motors, and other simple components. It is through the discussion and analysis of this vehicle and its various parts that the many facets of Ocean Engineering are introduced to the students. This paper outlines the course and our experiences in teaching it. The paper also describes some of the simple technologies have been developed to enable students to engineer underwater both easily and inexpensively.

Introduction Ocean engineering is a difficult field because the ocean is such a harsh environment. Underwater systems (e.g. submarines, instrument packages) are surrounded by corrosive seawater, subjected to enormous pressure, and buffeted by currents. Radio communication is nearly impossible because electromagnetic radiation is absorbed over short distances. Control and communication must be handled through slow acoustic links with surface personnel or computers, or handled by onboard computers as is the case in complex autonomous systems. Space is at a premium in underwater systems because of the cost of underwater housings, especially those resistant to high pressure. This raises significant challenges in packaging of the components and assemblies and necessitates the efficient use of limited power. Some of these engineering constraints are relaxed when marine systems are confined to the surface but other challenges take their place. Chief among these is weather; surface systems such as boats and buoys must be able to survive hurricane conditions and long term temperature extremes.

As a result of the myriad problems associated with marine engineering, ocean engineers often have multiple specialties. They have expertise in more traditional fields like electrical engineering or mechanical engineering plus expertise in the properties of the marine environment and the effects those properties have on marine systems. This multidisciplinary aspect not only makes ocean engineering technically challenging, but also challenging to teach. In particular, it is difficult to introduce the field to beginning engineering students – they seem to have to know so much in order to begin to “get wet”. For the past four years we have tackled the problem of “Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education”

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Consi, T. (2002, June), Introducing Students To Ocean Engineering Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10107

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