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Robotic Aqua Sensor – An Undergraduate Multidisciplinary Project

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Instrumentation and Measurements: Innovative Course Development

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1101.1 - 11.1101.9



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Paper Authors

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Hong Zhang Rowan University

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Courtney Richmond Rowan University

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Ying Tang Rowan University

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Patricia Mosto Rowan University

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

Robotic Aqua Sensor – An Undergraduate Multidisciplinary Project


The application of engineering skills to address the needs of non-engineers are always desired by industry, and working on these applications is critical to the success of our students. Starting in spring 2005, a group of Rowan undergraduate students from Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Biology have been working together to develop a mobile aqua sensor under the guidance of faculty from each of these departments. Within one year’s time, the group has designed and built three generations of prototypes, conducted several experiments, and modified our design with inputs from all parties and from empirical results.

I. Introduction

Many professional biologists monitor the ecology or water quality of aquatic habitats, traditionally accomplishing these tasks by sampling in a discrete manner1, in which sampling stations are typically selected in advance, and sampling is conducted by physically going to the field locations. This method is labor-intensive and time consuming. The number of stations that can be sampled is limited, and the sampling regime is generally not altered as data are collected. A more recent option is to anchor sensors and wireless transmitters such as distributed sensors4 directly in the habitat, leaving them there to sample continuously or at predetermined discrete intervals. However, the cost of this option multiplies quickly when the number of deployments increases. Further, the processes necessary to anchor the deployed equipment, multiplied by several locations, may alter the original environment or create unexpected damages.

As an alternative, mobile sensor platforms such as Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) are capable of remote data collection. However, these technologies are very expensive and often need a dedicated crew to maintain and operate them, often limiting their use to a handful of research institutes who can afford the associated costs. Although these organizations always encouraged external participation, the time and level of involvement required can be prohibitive for individuals or groups from smaller institutions. It is therefore desirable for smaller or less soluble educational institutions to have their own robotic probing and surveillance system if they intend to conduct these types of scientific studies in the field.

In this multidisciplinary project, we designed and built a low cost, low maintenance, easy to operate Interactive Mobile Aqua Probe & Surveillance (IMAPS) system for schools, researchers, and environmental and biological workers. The robotic sensor is designed to cruise a given water body, collect the necessary data or samples, observe and record the environment, and even search for the origin of point-source pollutants. Within a year, the designs have evolved through three generations, from a proof-of-concept prototype, to a field test video probe, to the final design of a pontoon-style model. Interdisciplinary tests and experiments have also been conducted to test the functions of the system.

Zhang, H., & Richmond, C., & Tang, Y., & Mosto, P. (2006, June), Robotic Aqua Sensor – An Undergraduate Multidisciplinary Project Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--971

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