Summary: MTS Bioinspired Marine Systems Committee Meeting on Sensing and Hydrodynamic Performance of Underwater Swimmers

On September 9, scientists from a wide variety of STEM fields converged at the George Mason University Potomac Science Center for a one-day conference of the MTS Bioinspired Marine Systems Committee, sponsored by MTS and the George Mason University Department of Physics and Astronomy. 

The meeting brought together experimental, theoretical, and computational scientists from physics, ocean engineering, materials science, biology, biomechanics, fluid mechanics, mechanical engineering, robotics, computer science and electrical engineering, underwater acoustics, AI, and human-robot interaction communities. 

Ongoing research and current findings were presented on topics including: 

  • Tuna-inspired, forward-deployable fins for improved UUV maneuverability.
  • MRI data and structural analysis of fish muscle to inform soft deformable UUV and control surface designs.
  • Advances in novel materials for artificial muscle actuators for untethered mobility of soft robots.
  • Structure and fluid dynamics of seal whiskers for wake tracking.
  • Fluid dynamics of living and bioinspired robotic turtles, sea lions, and rays.
  • Shark skin and whale fin geometries and structures for flow modification enabling drag, wake, and noise reduction.
  • Design and testing of devices for biofouling removal for enabling a decrease in fuel consumption and the prevention of invasive species transport.
  • Performance and lessons learned during execution of at-sea missions by Boston Engineering’s Ghost Swimmer and Bio Swimmer UUVs.
  • Lessons learned on human-robot interactions and the effects of risk-taking by software designers on the performance of autonomous driving cars and trucks.

Frank Fish Presents at the committee meetingIn-person and online participants represented George Mason, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, West Chester, Duke NJIT, Rutgers, Drexel, USC, Florida and Florida Atlantic universities, as well as the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Newport Division, the Naval Research Laboratory, the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency, the Boston Engineering Corporation, and Blue Wave Robotics. Several George Mason University doctoral candidates working on robotic vehicles also attended and participated in the meeting. 

Beyond the research presentations at the meeting, a George Mason University team gave a hands-on demonstration of a STEM kit for understanding principles of bioinspired propulsion and control, which included three lighter-than-air, fish-inspired vehicles. These kits offer an introduction to underwater robotics and bioinspired systems for high school students without access to pools or other bodies of water.  

The meeting concluded with a discussion around plans for a special future meeting, possibly a Tech Surge, on soft robotics for bioinspired undersea vehicles.

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