Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A Surfboard Gets an Onboard Computer

20.08.2010
Computers are everywhere these days – even on surfboards. University of California, San Diego mechanical engineering undergraduates outfitted a surfboard with a computer and accompanying sensors -- one step toward a structural engineering Ph.D. student’s quest to develop the science of surfboards.

The UC San Diego mechanical engineering undergraduates installed a computer and sensors on a surfboard and recorded the speed of the water flowing beneath the board. While the students surfed, the onboard computer sent water velocity information to a laptop on shore in real time.

This is part of Benjamin Thompson’s quest to discover if surfboards have an optimal flexibility – a board stiffness that makes surfing as enjoyable as possible. Thompson is a UC San Diego structural engineering Ph.D. student studying the fluid-structure interaction between surfboards and waves. By outfitting a surfboard with sensors and electronics that shuttle data back to shore, the mechanical engineering undergraduates built some of the technological foundation for Thompson’s science-of-surfboards project.

Four undergraduates from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering outfitted a surfboard with eight sensors and an onboard-computer or “microcontroller.” The students dug trenches into the board’s foam and ran wires connecting the sensors to the onboard computer. From this computer, the data travels via a wireless channel to a laptop on land – in this case, a beach in Del Mar, Calif.

The onboard computer also saves the data on a memory card.

“We were stoked to get good data and to be surfing for school,” said Dan Ferguson, one of the two mechanical engineering undergraduates who surfed while the onboard computer captured water velocity information and transmitted it back to land.

The four mechanical engineering majors built the wired surfboard for their senior design project, the culmination of the MAE 156 course sequence. Each project has a sponsor, and in this case, the sponsor was Benjamin Thompson, the structural engineering Ph.D. student from UC San Diego and founder of the surfboard Web site www.boardformula.com.

The onboard computer is in a watertight case the shape of a medium-sized box of chocolates. It sits at the front of the surfboard and glows blue. “What’s on your board? What is that?” fellow surfers asked Ferguson. “We’d have to tell them it’s a microprocessor connected to velocity sensors, and they would kind of nod and paddle away. It created a minor stir.”

Each of the eight sensors embedded into the bottom of the board is a “bend sensor.” The faster the water beneath the board moves, with respect to the board, the more the sensors bend, explained Trevor Owen, the other surfer on the four-person mechanical engineering team.

The data from the sensors runs through wires embedded in the board to the microcontroller. “You can see where we carved channels in the board,” said Owen.

The most interesting part of the project for senior mechanical engineering major Victor Correa was using the microcontrollers and wireless transmitters to get the data to land.

Thompson, the project sponsor, is already working on a smaller version of the onboard computer. He hopes to shrink it down to the size of a cell phone and embed it flush with the top surface of the board.

Assembling, waterproofing and installing the microcontroller, connecting it to the sensors, and successfully transmitting the collected data to a computer on land required persistence and a lot of learning, explained senior mechanical engineering major Julia Tsai. “Everything hypothetically should take five minutes, but everything took at least three hours.”

Even though the team has finished their class project, Ferguson plans to keep working with Thompson. “This project is going to apply some science that most likely [board] shapers understand pretty well...it’s going to settle the debates. It’s going to be black and white hard data to let them know for sure which ideas work, which concepts work, and why they work.”

Surfboard Flex
Surfboard flex refers to the temporary shape changes that surfboards are thought to undergo. While many surfers say flex makes their boards feel springy in the water, it has not been scientifically measured. Thompson hopes to scientifically document surfboard flex. Then he wants to determine if there is an amount of flexibility that enhances the performance and feel of a surfboard, and if this optimal flexibility depends on other factors such as surfer experience or wave conditions.

The surfboard project falls within a hot area of engineering research: the study of fluid-structure interactions. According to UC San Diego structural engineering professor Qiang Zhu, the study of fluid-structure interaction is important due to the large number of applications in mechanical, civil, aerospace and biological engineering. “In my opinion, its popularity in recent years is partly attributed to advances in experimental and computational techniques which allow many important processes to be studied in detail,” said Zhu.

This is what the UC San Diego engineers are doing for surfboards: they are studying how surfboards change shape when people ride them – and how those shape changes are tied to the subjective experience of surfing.

At the public presentation of their research, team member Tsai said, “I thought the coolest part was being able to test our board, going out to the beach to test it, everyone else had to stay downstairs in the lab.”

| Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.ucsd.edu

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Construction of practical quantum computers radically simplified
05.12.2016 | University of Sussex

nachricht UT professor develops algorithm to improve online mapping of disaster areas
29.11.2016 | University of Tennessee at Knoxville

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>