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We talk with engineer Bill Porter about his work with underwater robots, electronics, and science education.
- Our guest, Bill Porter, works for the Naval Surface Warfare Center, where he develops autonomous underwater vehicles.
- Bill was a guest on The Engineering Commons podcast a little more than a year ago, in an episode titled STEM Education. In that interview, he told us about his work as a member of the Science Brothers.
- Our guest got married during the past year, and managed to work a soldering iron into his wedding ceremony.
- Bill and his fiancee, Mara, sent out wedding invitations that lit up (“twinkled”) and flashed a special message in Morse code.
- A bit of EL wire and some LEDs allowed Bill’s suit and Mara’s dress to light up as well.
- Mara and Bill also designed and built edge-lit acrylic centerpieces for the reception.
- A YouTube video of our guest displaying his Tetris-playing tie has over 104,000 views as of this episode’s release date. An updated version does a better job of playing Tetris! A Digispark Development Board was used for the initial prototype, while an Arduino Pro-Mini was used for the second version.
- Bill works on submersible robots that search for mines in the ocean. The water’s attenuation of radio frequency (RF) signals requires these vehicles to be autonomous.
- Many of the underwater robotic concepts were originally developed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
- One of the vehicles Bill works on was used to search for the USS Alligator, the first submarine used by the US Navy.
- A project that our guest recently worked on was the Modular Unmanned Surface Craft Littoral (MUSCL), a boat intended for surveillance and reconnaissance along rivers. In case you need to look it up, as your humble scribe did, a littoral zone is “the part of a sea, lake or river that is close to the shore.”
- In his spare time, Bill does a lot of work with Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI), a “non-profit organization devoted to advancing the unmanned systems community.”
- The SeaPerch program equips teachers and students with resources needed to build an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). Carmen got to build one of these vehicles as a high-school student.
- A number of college-level competitions are coordinated by AUVSI, and sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), including RoboSub, RoboBoat, as well as challenges for Unmanned Air Systems and Intelligent Ground Vehicles.
- A new international competition for 12-foot long surface craft is the Maritime RobotX Challenge, which will be held in Singapore next October (2014).
- Bill recently created a Reaction Time Challenge exhibit for the Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida.
- Our guest won a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic 3D printer from Wired Insider for his Tesla Hero video, in which he used a Guitar Hero controller to play notes on a Tesla coil. As usual, Bill has further information on his blog.
- After graduating from Lego Mindstorms, the first controller that our guest programmed was a command module for the iRobot Create.
- Bill tries to tell younger kids that it’s alright to be interested in technology. Older kids a reassured that they can make and fix things themselves.
- Listeners can find out more about our guest on his blog at billporter.info.
Thanks to Stig Nygaard for the photograph titled “Underwater test #2.” Podcast theme music provided by Paul Stevenson