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Multi-Disciplinary Team Receives Funding For A Biologically-Inspired, Lighter-Than-Air, Instructional, Mechatronics Program (BLIMP)

Leigh McCue, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, in collaboration with Jill Nelson, Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE); Cameron Nowzari, Assistant Professor, ECE; Ali Raz, Professor, Systems Engineering and Operations Research (SEOR); Jessica Rosenberg, Associate Professor, Physics and Astronomy; Daigo Shishika, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering; and Cynthia Smith, Associate Professor and K12 Education Director, Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center (PEREC), Environmental Science and Policy,received funding for an effort aimed at providing an introduction to biologically-inspired underwater robotics using lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicles. Under this effort, the team will develop a STEM outreach program providing high-school aged learners with an introduction to biologically inspired underwater robotics using lighter than air (LTA) vehicles. This work includes prototype kit development targeting a comparable cost per kit as SeaPerch ($179) and SeaGlide ($249) along with instructional materials to include demonstration videos and standards-aligned written curricular content to facilitate classroom implementation. LTA vehicles are utilized specifically for this program due to the unique ability to demonstrate fundamental concepts applicable to both aircraft and underwater vehicles, including structural analysis, aerodynamics and hydrodrynamics, biologically inspired propulsion, systems engineering, and swarm dynamics, without requiring student access to pools or other bodies of water. 

The team received $258,971 from the U.S. Department of the Navy for this project. Funding began in September 2021 and will end in September 2022.