Epsom College

MicroTransat

...attempting to cross the Atlantic


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What is the MicroTransat Challenge?

The Microtransat Challenge was launched in 2005 to stimulate the development of fully autonomous model sailing boats capable of crossing the Atlantic in an east-west or west-east direction. To date, none of the 12 Microtransat attempts has been successful. In July the Epsom College team will hopefully be the first to succeed where many have failed and this site will allow you to follow their attempt live.

Key Components


Own design boat

The boat is a GRP hull based on a J-Class racer. We own the mould and so can try again if this boat fails. It is 1.8M long weighs 10-15kg depending on its ballast.

Navigation

The ship uses a student programmed navigation system that uses GPS and a magnetic digital compass

Communication

The boats updates its location using the Iridium Satellite Network and a Rock7 breakout board. In the first week it will update every hour, then drop back to every six hours.

Tracking

Our server runs scripts that save key data in a database, uploads to Twitter and Emails the competition organisers. This website allows you to follow our attempt via markers on Google Maps.

Fisherman Simon finds boat on Chesil Beach

by the Epsom_Transat Team


Posted on July 17th, 2016 at 1:00 PM



That'll Do! appears on Chesil Beach and is due to be recovered.

Many thanks to Simon for sending us pictures of the boat and a link to its location. It looks pretty battered! Once we get the boat back we will try to assertain what went wrong and download all the data from the datalogger.

The keel and rudder are missing, which wasn't the case two days ago! Where the wreckage lies can tell us a lot. If we find the missing keel nearby, it means it broke apart on shore as it was battered by the waves breaking; however, if it is not the case it is more likely it happened at sea.

This attempt and coverage of trying to cross the Atlantic ends here, but please keep following us on Twitter (@EPSOM_TRANSAT) as we will hopefully try again soon!

Many thanks go to all the support we have received from all over; especially Peter for helping locate the boat and also Robin Lovelock who kept an ongoing log of That'll Do!'s adventures via his website and will be launching his 11th attempt, Snoopy, imminiently!


TV and Radio appearances for That'll Do!

by the Epsom_Transat Team


Posted on July 16th, 2016 at 1:00 PM



That'll Do! appears in the Epsom Guardian, The Times newspaper and has a 10 minute segment on The Two Mikes (TALKRadio)

Interest and support has developed over the last few weeks with interest in the boat shown from all over the world. You can read the Epsom Guardian piece here or listen to Head of Chemistry, Jamie Styles, talk about STEM on TALKRadio here.


Contact Lost!

by the Epsom_Transat Team


Posted on July 14thth, 2016 at 1:00 PM



Our worst fears have been realised, That'll Do! is no longer communicating!

Fingers are crossed she will come back online soon. She was last seen drifting towards Chesil Beach near Weymouth. #PREY


Physics teacher finds her at sea!

by the Epsom_Transat Team


Posted on July 12thth, 2016 at 1:00 PM



An ex physics teacher Barry finds That'll Do! becalmed in the channel.

Barry come across the boat floating in the channel and has forwarded these pictures and videos. She looks in great shape (except for the not steering thing!)


Adrift at sea... That'll Do! seems non-responsive!

by the Epsom_Transat Team


Posted on July 8th, 2016 at 1:00 PM



It would appear That'll Do! is adrift in the channel! The satellite communicator is working; however, it does not appear to be tracking! It may come back to life, but hope is fading! Will it become a recovery mission?

Who picked her up and moved her against the tide? Did they accidentally break her?


Suspicious movements! Has That'll Do! been tampered with?

by the Epsom_Transat Team


Posted on July 5th, 2016 at 9:00 PM



To cross the Atlantic autonomously you need three things: good software, a good boat and a lot of luck. Have we just run out of the latter?

This image was provided by our friend Peter and shows that after the third upload That'll Do! started moving against the tide for a period of time. Given the wind and tidal strength this suggests someone has picked up the boat; however, more worringly, since doing so, the boat is off course. Has curiosity scuppered our chances? Only time will tell!


And she's off...

by the Epsom_Transat Team


Posted on July 5th, 2016 at 2:00 PM



With a little help from the Royal Navy, the College's Microtransat Challenge boat, That'll Do, was launched successfully on Tuesday in almost perfect weather conditions.

Accompanied by Head of Chemistry, Jamie Styles, and Head of Physics, Chris Telfer, 6th formers Tim Lazarus, Tom Egan, Charlie Steward, Jamie Gleave and Aiden Findlay left Torquay Marina at 10.00am aboard the Royal Navy vessels HMS Exploit and HMS Pursuer and were ferried to the selected launch point 30km off the south-west coast of England.En route to the launch, the College team witnessed a real life rescue as a Navy destroyer, HMS Dragon, and a coastguard helicopter provided assistance to a medical emergency aboard a pleasure yacht.

With a flat sea and the temperature hitting 26˚C, the Microtransat Challenge officially started at 10.53am. Nerves were jangling as the boat headed the wrong way but it quickly pointed its bow in the right direction towards the Atlantic.

Initially, the tracking system appeared not to be working as it placed the boat somewhere near Paris but a small tweak to some of the land-based software quickly fixed the error.

As a final test before being left to the journey, the boat had to endure the swell of HMS Dragon as the destroyer made multiple passes to allow its crew to watch the launch.

After seeing the boat off, the team made the return trip to Torquay during which they were delighted to be flanked by a pod of breaching dolphins.

The College team is aiming to be the first to successfully complete the Microtransat Challenge, which was launched in 2005 to stimulate the development of fully autonomous model sailing boats capable of crossing the Atlantic in an east-west or west-east direction.

Bringing together students and staff from the Mathematics, Geography, Chemistry, Physics and Computing Departments, the team have been working on the design of their boat since September 2015 as part of a student-led STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) project.

Equipped with a self-designed and programmed USB datalogger, which logs latitude, longitude and temperature data, and a GPS module to calculate its position and determine a heading to the next waypoint that is stored in its memory using software the students have written themselves, the boat has the ability to transmit its location every hour, from anywhere in the world, directly to its own Twitter feed (@Epsom_Transat) via the Iridium satellite network.

As well as updating Twitter on its whereabouts, it also saves the information to a MySQL database and emails the Microtransat Challenge organisers every 6 hours. The USB datalogger records its position every 30 minutes and, in the event that it is successful, will be used to verify the crossing.

To date there have been 12 Microtransat attempts but none has been successful. The best effort so far came from a United States Naval Academy team whose 1.2m long boat, Aboat Time, managed to travel 408 km in 5 days 11 hours in May 2014 before being caught in a fishing net.

The College boat is currently mid-channel and can be tracked via http://stem.epsomcollege.org.uk. If successful, it should arrive in Antigua in six months' time.



Final testing at Paper Court Sailing Club

by the Epsom_Transat Team


Posted on June 28th, 2016 at 7:00 PM



The College team's last testing at Paper Court Sailing Club

The last testing has taken place as as you can see from the video, it's done well. Keep you eye on Twitter and this website from Tuesday lunch and track the boat live as it attempts to sail the mighty Atlantic.


Circuit boards arrive...

the Epsom_Transat Team


Posted on Jun 14th, 2016 at 5:00 PM



The last piece of the project has arrived! The custom made circuit boards are here and soldered up ready for final testing.

Designing circuit boards is never easy as it's so easy to make a mistake... but it looks like we've done it. We could have just used copper strip board to make the circuits but these Fritzing materpieces are much smaller and more reliable. The boards have also been designed as to be used with a lot of the other STEM projects we are working on such as rocket cars and high altitude ballooning. The circuits were designed by Epsom College but made by Fritzing in Germany. They look great and are super cheap to produce.


Final testing at Paper Court Sailing Club

by the Epsom_Transat Team


Posted on May 14, 2016 at 6:00 PM



The College team that is attempting to become the first school to sail an autonomous model boat across the Atlantic conducted the latest stage of testing on Thursday at the Papercourt Sailing Club in Ripley.

Head of Chemistry, Jamie Styles, Head of Physics, Chris Telfer, and 6th formers, Tom Egan, Tim Lazarus, Jamie Gleave, Charlie Steward and Aiden Findlay, put their boat through its paces prior to attempting the Microtransat Challenge in late June/early July. The boat performed beyond all expectations and the student-led project now has the ability to transmit, from anywhere in the world, directly to its own Twitter feed (@Epsom_Atlantic) via the Iridium satellite network. As well as updating Twitter on its whereabouts, it also saves the information to a MySQL database and emails the competition organisers every 6 hours.

In the event that the boat manages to brave the Atlantic storms and make it to America, it contains a USB drive that records its position every hour and can be used to verify the crossing. The self-designed and programmed USB datalogger, which weighs just 100 grams and logs latitude, longitude and temperature data, was successfully tested earlier this month on a high altitude balloon at 35,000M.

Further testing of the boat's software will take place over the next few weeks and its rigging and fittings will be upgraded prior to the crossing attempt. Just-Metal in Godstone is using its specialised welding skills to help the team improve both the aesthetics and the structural integrity of the boat.

The Microtransat Challenge was launched in 2005 to stimulate the development of fully autonomous model sailing boats capable of crossing the Atlantic in an east-west or west-east direction. To date, none of the 12 Microtransat attempts has been successful.


Testing the hardware at 30,000M

the Epsom_Transat Team


Posted on May 1st, 2016 at 5:00 PM



The College team that is attempting to become the first school to sail an autonomous model boat across the Atlantic conducted the latest stage of testing on Thursday at the Papercourt Sailing Club in Ripley.

Head of Chemistry, Jamie Styles, Head of Physics, Chris Telfer, and 6th formers, Tom Egan, Tim Lazarus, Jamie Gleave, Charlie Steward and Aiden Findlay, put their boat through its paces prior to attempting the Microtransat Challenge in late June/early July.

The boat performed beyond all expectations and the student-led project now has the ability to transmit, from anywhere in the world, directly to its own Twitter feed (@Epsom_Atlantic) via the Iridium satellite network.

As well as updating Twitter on its whereabouts, it also saves the information to a MySQL database and emails the competition organisers every 6 hours.

In the event that the boat manages to brave the Atlantic storms and make it to America, it contains a USB drive that records its position every hour and can be used to verify the crossing. The self-designed and programmed USB datalogger, which weighs just 100 grams and logs latitude, longitude and temperature data, was successfully tested earlier this month on a High Altitude Balloon at 35,000M.

Further testing of the boat's software will take place over the next few weeks and its rigging and fittings will be upgraded prior to the crossing attempt.

Just-Metal in Godstone is using its specialised welding skills to help the team improve both the aesthetics and the structural integrity of the boat.

The Microtransat Challenge was launched in 2005 to stimulate the development of fully autonomous model sailing boats capable of crossing the Atlantic in an east-west or west-east direction. To date, none of the 12 Microtransat attempts has been successful. The College team is confident that their boat has the potential to become the first to complete the challenge


First milestone met in Transatlantic challenge

the Epsom_Transat Team


Posted on May 1st, 2016 at 5:00 PM



A College team of programmers, scientists, geographers, mathematicians and DT students have reached an initial milestone in an attempt to become the first school to sail an autonomous model boat across the Atlantic.

The College has entered the Microtransat Challenge, which was originally launched in 2005 by Dr Mark Neal of Aberystwyth University and Dr Yves Brière of the Institut Supérieure de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace (ISAE) in Toulouse, France, to stimulate the development of fully autonomous model sailing boats capable of crossing the Atlantic in an east-west or west-east direction. Last Friday, in the first stage of the development of the Epsom College boat, U6th formers Thomas Egan, Jamie Gleave, Charles Steward and Tim Lazarus successfully managed to get a remote controlled car to drive itself from the Chemistry Department to a pre-saved GPS waypoint on the corner of Chapel Lawn without any human intervention. They are now working on improving the software with an algorithm that takes speed into account to improve the efficiency of the route taken. Once the navigational and other software has been perfected, it will be transferred into an Epsom College boat that will be extensively modified by DT students for final tweaks before the transatlantic crossing is attempted.

The boat itself, which will use a GPS module to calculate its position and determine a heading to the next waypoint that is stored in its memory, will undergo rigorous testing at the Papercourt Sailing Club in Ripley prior to the crossing.

The exact date of departure has not yet been decided but the geographers in the team are hard at work choosing the best launch point and optimum route taking into account ocean currents, winds and daylight hours for the solar arrays that will power the boat.

To date there have been 12 Microtransat attempts but none has been successful. The best effort so far came from a United States Naval Academy team whose 1.2m long boat, Aboat Time, managed to travel 408 km in 5 days 11 hours in May 2014 before being caught in a fishing net.

The College team is under no illusions about the size of the challenge and their chances of success given that a number of better funded and resourced universities have already tried and failed. However, under the guidance of Head of Chemistry, Jamie Styles, who has extensive experience in the programming and manufacture of solar-powered, remote location sensors and devices, and Head of Geography, Sam Powell, they are confident that they will be able to produce a boat that at least has the potential to complete the challenge.