Robotics Research with Riva

By Ariana Chae '15


I had a chance to visit the Robotics lab with Riva Kahn
Hallock '15 to talk to her about her research with hydrofoils.  Hydrofoils are used in watercraft in order to
raise the hull of the boat above the water, reducing drag and increasing speed.
Riva is working with hydrofoils on RC boats, a field that differs a bit from
hydrofoils on normal-sized boats and has not really been explored in depth.


Riva explaining her work with hydrofoils

What experiments have
you been doing, and what skills have you acquired in the process?

We're trying to determine if hydrofoils will actually have a
significant impact on a small RC boat. Our first prototype worked to some
degree, but it still had a lot of drag, so we're in the process of crafting a
new one.  We have been RP-printing and
laying up prototypes of dihedral hydrofoils using the 3D printer and fiberglass
composites in the lab. We put the hydrofoils on a small RC test boat and drove
it around in the pool in the project building, so right now the testing is very
qualitative. Soon we will put our final prototype on our larger, more
sophisticated boat and film it in the Babson pool where there are lane markers.
This will allow us to actually run some calculations and determine if it has
drag-reducing effects.


Nick Lapin '15 holding the larger boat for the final prototype

We have learned a lot about fluid dynamics and how foils
work (considering we are all underclassmen who haven't taken Transport). Also, manufacturing
a foil on such a small scale is an interesting challenge because anything that
is slightly off could yield entirely different results. Most importantly, this
research has taught me to think more iteratively; we have to keep coming up
with ways to improve our model both fabrication-wise and design-wise, so it
requires some planning and thinking!


What are your future
plans, and what do you hope to get out of this research?

In the rather distant future, we hope to someday develop a
model that could be used for Sailbot. We also are interested in coming up with
foils with flaps that are more adjustable and customizable. Personally, I
someday hope to do ocean engineering, so I think this project is a valuable
introduction to fluid dynamics and analysis.


Do you have any
advice for students who want to get involved with robotics research?
Talk to the professors! They are extremely knowledgeable and love sharing
projects with students. In fact, we have our research meetings during "Robot
Tea and Cookies" every week on Friday afternoons, which is an opportunity for
anyone in the Olin community to see what's happening in the lab and talk about everything
robots. Come drop by!

Posted in: Because I Wanted To, Fun @ Olin, Research