Whether it comes to work or play, the ocean is Sim’s natural habitat.
“I have been surrounded by water my entire life. I grew up near the beach, worked in the middle of the ocean on naval ships, and paddleboard nearly year-round with my family on the weekends,” said Sim, a mechanical engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Port Hueneme, California.
Concerned that rising levels of pollution in recreational and transit waterways are threatening the health of humans and marine life, Sim’s capstone project was a system that could monitor, control, and neutralize the number of bacteria and pollution in a harbor/marina daily.
What problem were you trying to solve and how did that problem come to your attention?
Pollution in recreational and transit waterways can have a multitude of negative impacts on human and marine life. More than 10,000 marinas and harbors line the US coastline, primarily inhabited by motorized boats and vessels. These areas have become the source of water contamination and pollution.
The popularity of paddle sports has grown tremendously in recent years. Harbors and marinas are particularly popular areas among paddle sport enthusiasts of all levels because they allow activities at a calmer pace than the open ocean. But these are the same areas where water contamination and pollution reside.
As someone who enjoys paddle boarding, I have come to understand that those who are new to water activities may not be aware of the signs of hazardous water conditions or where to find information on the subject. Additionally, they may not have access to real-time updates to help avoid any potential biohazards.
Currently, water samples in these areas are collected by humans traveling via kayak. The frequency at which water samples are collected depends on the weather and season and varies from county to county. The samples are then sent back to a lab and tested. The entire process from collection to test can take anywhere from seven to 10 days before data is made available online. As a result, the data might not always be representative of actual current conditions.
What was your solution? How does it do the job better than systems already in use?
I propose the California Harbor and Marina Sanitization Control System (CAHMSCS, pronounced “calm seas”) to mitigate the health and safety risks to humans and marine mammals caused by pollution and harmful water contaminants. CAHMSCS would monitor, control, and neutralize the number of bacteria and pollution in a harbor/marina daily. The system would autonomously collect, process, and report the water quality in real time. Additionally, the CAHMSCS system would provide information to the public about areas of harbors and marines with high levels of trash buildup.
Tell us about how you approached this using systems engineering.
I decided to tackle California’s harbors and marinas first. I first looked into the current operations for managing pollution at harbors and marinas. There were a number of areas I believe could improve such as water sampling periodicity and incorporating autonomy. These were capability gaps the envisioned CAHMSCS would fill and essentially became the first set of design requirements for the system. also conducted several stakeholder interviews to understand the needs of users within the system.
From performing functional analysis, allocating them to physical components and subsystems, and conducting trade studies on possible commercial-off-the-shelf parts to integrate, I was able to create a conceptual design for the CAHMSCS.
Why is this work important? Do you see your system being implemented in real life?
I currently work for the Department of the Navy, and have experience with testing autonomous underwater vehicles for several types of missions. With this experience, I have been fortunate to see the progression of unmanned underwater vehicle technology within the military. Seeing how these vehicles are used to conduct complex missions in all different types of environments has allowed me to envision other types of non-military-related applications, such as environmental maintenance. The growth of harbor and marina pollution is such that it overwhelms the current system’s ability to keep users safe from exposure to substances that could be detrimental to their health.
I absolutely see my system being implemented in real life. I envision the scope of the system to span other areas such as lakes, rivers, and shipyards in terms of operational areas. I would venture to say that given the proper resources to develop it, this system could be deployed to remediate bodies of water from things like oil spillages and major natural disaster water wreckage.
Are you planning to continue to work on this?
As someone with experience in UUVs for the Navy, I intend to submit a proposal to the Navy to pursue this system. I truly believe this system will benefit much of the work we do both domestically and abroad. I envision the CAHMSCS to assist with controlling and containing contamination within shipyards that typically empty out into the ocean.
Anything else we need to know?
I’m so grateful for having completed the JHU Whiting School of Engineering Systems Engineering program. The opportunity to learn so much under such great mentorship has allowed me to put into practice this technique at my job. Being able to come up with the CAHMSCS system allows me to draw attention to a problem I feel passionate about while offering a real solution.