Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Underway Penn State Innovation Project

A new Penn State innovation project is underway. Six Belgium Campus iTversity students have partnered with several Pennsylvania State University students to design and build an autonomous underwater vehicle that detects water pollution. “Our environment is deteriorating rapidly and I am happy to be part of a project that aims to help address this growing global concern,” comments Megan Venter, a 3rd year software engineering student.

The six Belgium Campus iTversity students have been divided into two groups. One group is focussing on the autonomous navigation aspect of the vehicle using software engineering practice. They will be using visual input from cameras surrounding the vehicle to develop a code that allows it to recognise colours and shapes, helping it to avoid obstacles and reach its predetermined destinations. The other group is using data analytics for the water pollution detection aspect. They are creating a sensor which will monitor variables like PH, TDS and temperature in order to identify the areas in a body of water where pollution is present and where treatment is required.

“A project like this is especially important in third world countries where water pollution is often an issue. These countries usually do not have adequate sewage systems or the necessary technology or capital to effectively identify and treat polluted water. This project aims to provide countries like these with an affordable, accessible solution,” shares Louis Van Zyl, a 3rd year software engineering student.

The project fits seamlessly with the two specialisations offered as part of our Bachelor of Computing, allowing our students to apply what they have learned over the last 3 years in a new way. “This is the first time we will be coding hardware which is exciting and important. Everybody works off hardware, coding an app is one thing but making it communicate with hardware is a whole different challenge,” Ms Venter says.

An international project like this gives our students a unique opportunity to approach a project from a multicultural, multidisciplinary perspective which ultimately enriches the process of ideation. “All of the Belgium Campus students are software engineers but the Pennsylvania State students include chemical engineers, electrical engineers and students specialising in business. It is great to see how people from different disciplines approach a problem and it allows us to showcase our unique skills and bring them together to strengthen the project,” Ms Venter shares. “Working with people from a different culture exposes you to a different way of viewing and attacking a problem. It is forcing us to overcome challenges like distance and time-zone while gaining vital time management and interpersonal skills that we can carry with us into the working world,” Mr Van Zyl adds.

The project will run for 12 months with a new set of Belgium Campus iTversity students taking over at the 6 month mark. These students will be tasked to work with the Pennsylvania State University students to integrate each component into one feasible project. They will have the opportunity to travel to Pennsylvania State University to meet the students they have been working with and present their project in front of a panel of judges at the 2020 Capstone Design Project Showcase.

Keep an eye on our social media to stay up to date as the project unfolds.