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Upstate students engineer self-driving boats through Bosch Community Fund-sponsored summer camp

July 27, 2018

Upstate elementary, middle, and high school students participated in an Autonomous Boat Summer Camp for Ocean Conservation led by automotive engineering professors Srikanth Pilla and Yunyi Jia at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). Sponsored by the Bosch Community Fund, the camp provides students with opportunities to engineer their own small self-driving boats and learn the importance of cleaning the oceans.

Mike McCormick, vice president and technical plant manager at Bosch Rexroth in Fountain Inn, said, “Bosch has always supported programming that combines STEM education with environmental stewardship initiatives and this is a terrific example of that cross-section.”

“Plastic waste is the biggest threat to our oceans,” said Jia. “Animals end up eating these microtoxins and, in turn, die. Or sometimes we end up eating the animals and effectively poison ourselves.”

Jia said the camp is intended to keep students interested in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math – but they also get a lot of  ecological and sustainability knowledge.

“While teaching them all sorts of great information on autonomy, we’re using this as an opportunity to also show them that the ocean is worth saving,” he said.

During the camp students are learning about the harms of plastics, the basics of boat building, software coding and, of course, boat autonomy.

Thanks to additional funding from the Bosch Community Fund, the camp builds on a previous 2017 grant supporting an autonomous boat competition among Clemson students at CU-ICAR. In that competition, 71 students were divided into 18 groups that built autonomous boats with cruise control, boundary tracking and collision avoidance using the sensing signal processing, filtering techniques and advanced control methods they learned in class.

Thank you, Bosch, for supporting STEM outreach and education in South Carolina!