August 15, 2017

A Step Towards Autonomy: MIT Sea Grant summer UROP Jocelyn Lorrey

By Bayley Connors, BURECS

SeaPerch, a remotely operated underwater vehicle, has been used in STEM from classrooms around the world. MIT Sea Grant has trained educators at various levels to construct the underwater robot out of widely available resources. This past summer, Jocelyn Lorrey attempted to further the device’s impact.

As part of the MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), Lorrey will be spending her summer as an intern with Dr. Thomas Consi, an education specialist at MIT Sea Grant. Through the addition of several sensors, Lorrey hopes to take steps towards making the SeaPerch fully autonomous. “Most of the project is trying to get some types of sensors on there, so we can get feedback and use it in a control system,” says Lorrey.

Currently, the SeaPerch is connected to a controller with a long cable which is limits both the maneuverability as well as the on board capabilities. Lorrey has been working to add a computer onto the SeaPerch, a simple arduino that allows the SeaPerch to collect sensor data and gives a baseline for creating intelligence on the vehicle. Using the new onboard computer, Lorrey added an inertial measurement unit (IMU) to the SeaPerch. This includes an accelerometer and gyroscope, which would serve to provide continuous feedback on both acceleration and orientation. Lorrey has also worked to modify SeaPerch’s motor control giving operators the ability to gradually control motor speed rather than the simple forward, backward and off options that currently exist. While Lorrey stresses that autonomy will not be achieved today, she is nonetheless laying the foundations for tomorrow.

MIT Sea Grant first appeared on Lorrey’s radar during a discussion with its former director, Dr. Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis, who also happens to be her advisor. When discussing research opportunities, he suggested that an internship with Sea Grant would parallel her interest in robotics. The experience she gained this summer will be extremely relevant to her goals, as she will be graduating from MIT in the coming year with a bachelor’s degree in Flex Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Robotics.

When she is not involved with research or schoolwork, Lorrey loves to participate in outdoor activities, like biking and hiking. Originally from Maine, she had fun exploring more of Boston this summer – something that the academic school year doesn’t provide quite a lot of time for.

The improvements Lorrey makes on the SeaPerch will yield countless opportunities for its design and capabilities, potentially fueling years of research to come.