Department of Ocean Engineering

Perhaps nothing in the Earth's landscape captures our imagination as much as the oceans. Full of mystery, beauty, bounty, and potential, they also represent the last great frontier for exploration on our planet. Since its inception, MIT's Department of Ocean Engineering has been committed to educating exceptional students who will take on this gauntlet of discovery. The field of ocean science is exciting, ever changing, and challenging, as we learn more each year about the critical role of the seas in areas such as climate change, energy, transportation, global economies and nearly every aspect of our lives. In the simplest terms, ocean engineering can be defined as the development of engineering systems for use in the ocean. In the department, students examine the complex phenomena of the oceans and develop novel technologies through intensive, hands-on-research. In so doing, they also gain a knowledge that fosters the wise use and preservation of these irreplaceable natural resources. We have set high goals for ourselves for the 21st century, including designing complex systems for high-performance ocean vehicles; leading the information revolution in the ocean; conducting large-scale experiments to better understand marine environments; and introducing chemistry and biology into the discipline of ocean engineering. Much of this work draws on earlier research in the Department, and much work still lies ahead.

In collaboration with the MIT Sea Grant College Program, the department has revolutionized the design of autonomous underwater vehicles, or AUVs. Such submersibles are now unlocking secrets of the deep oceans for scientists, industry and national defense. We look forward to a future filled with innovation and discovery, with a keen eye always on sustaining our marine environment and economy.

The mission of the department is to: educate and prepare students for leadership positions in industry, government and educational institutions; influence future directions of ocean engineering education and practice; and develop and disseminate knowledge and technology in order to foster and enable the wise and effective use, development and preservation of the ocean, its natural resources and its environment.

The major goals of the department over the next ten years are to: lead the information revolution in the domain of the oceans; lead the application of large-scale, complex system design and engineering for high-performance ocean vehicles and systems; contribute to a better understanding of ocean dynamics through large-scale experiments that complement the theoretical and numerical capabilities presently available; and prepare ground for the next major innovation in the department, which is to introduce chemistry and biology into the discipline of ocean engineering.


The Visiting Committee reviewed the department in March 2001 with the faculty and staff presenting its strategic plan and the major goals of the department over the next ten years. The Visiting Committee endorsed our activities and encouraged the faculty to maintain its momentum and excellence in its education and research activities.

For the third year we offered Discover Ocean Engineering: A Special Introduction to MIT to the Class of 2004. This innovative program for incoming freshmen was set up in 1998 as a four-day program to provide a first glimpse of what engineering is all about. It also allows the students to become familiar with some of the opportunities that the field of ocean engineering has to offer. In addition they get a jump-start on becoming involved in campus life and building a close relationship between the students, our faculty and staff. As in the past, the agenda consisted of hands-on experience building a small remotely operated vehicle (ROV), testing it in the water, and providing a chance to perform some actual research experiments with an ROV in Boston Harbor. This pre-orientation program, supplemented by funding of $12,000 through the Dean's Office of the School of Engineering, remains extremely popular and we already have 30 students signed up for the summer 2001 Discover Ocean Engineering.

In October 2000, Dr. Eliot G. Drucker, presented the sixth annual T. Francis Ogilvie Young Investigator Lecture on "How Fish Swim: Functional Insights from Experimental Wake Visualization." Dr. Drucker is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Irvine in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

The winner of the 2001 Robert Bruce Wallace Prize, which is awarded to an outstanding undergraduate in the Department of Ocean Engineering, was Karl-Magnus W. McLetchie. Karl was selected from a list of extremely qualified candidates and will be provided a full academic year of tuition and stipend for FY2002.

The following individuals were awarded the Martin A. Abkowitz International Fellowship: Dr. Todd Taylor for his participation in the Waterjet Propulsion III conference sponsored by the Royal Institution of Naval Architects held in Gothenburg, Sweden in February 2000; and Dr. Clifford Whitcomb for his participation in the International Symposium of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) to be held in Melbourne, Australia July 1-5, 2001. Dr. Whitcomb will represent the Department of Ocean Engineering as a designer of complex systems.

Normally on an annual basis we hold the Ship Design Symposium to showcase the work of our faculty and XIII-A students and to foster positive communications between academia, industry and the Navy and government on issues relevant to Naval Construction and Engineering. This year we took the opportunity to hold the Ship Design Symposium in conjunction with the Naval Construction and Engineering Course XIII-A's 100th anniversary celebration. A number of activities were planned which allowed participants to mingle and renew old acquaintances and forge new ones. A panel discussion on "Maintaining Technological Supremacy-Future of Ship Design Education and Research Opportunities" included RADM Jay M. Cohen, Chief of Naval Research, Millard Firebaugh, (RADM USN ret) Vice President of Advance Development, General Dynamics/Electric Boat Company, RADM (select) Paul Sullivan, Program Manager VIRGINIA Class Submarine, Professor Harvey Sapolsky, Director of MIT Security Studies, and Professor Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis, Department Head, Ocean Engineering and Director of Sea Grant. President Charles M. Vest was the evening dinner speaker along with Admiral Frank (Skip) Bowman, Director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion. On the following day faculty and students presented a variety of research projects on which they were working. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) provided funding towards preparation of the brochure and folders; General Dynamics, Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Dean's Office provided additional funding towards the conference itself. Overall the event was extremely successful.

Our 21st annual Alumni Reunion was held at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on October 5, 2000. Professor Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis served as the host at the reception which was well attended by alumni, faculty, and guests. The reunion is held annually in conjunction with the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Annual Meeting.

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Administrative Changes

Our Student Administration Office has undergone some recent changes. In addition to expanding into larger quarters, we underwent a staff change as well. Jean Sucharewicz moved to Maryland and Katharine de Zengotita was hired as her replacement as Student Administrator. Tammy Lynch was hired to fill the administrative assistant position when Beth Tuths transferred to Chemical Engineering.

We continue to teach 13.10J (1.573J) Structural Mechanics with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In addition we also teach 13.002J (10.002J) Introduction to Numerical Analysis for Engineering with the Department of Chemical Engineering.

As the result of an extensive search for a new faculty member in the area of hydrodynamics, Dr. Alexandra Techet, a former MIT Ocean Engineering student, was hired as the department's newest junior faculty member. Alex will begin her appointment July 2002.

During the spring of 2000, Professor Sclavounos chaired a committee which looked in depth into the structure of the OE part I doctoral Qualifying Exams. The committee carried out discussions on the scope, breadth and depth of the current exam requirements, studied the structure of the Part I Qualifying Exam in most other departments in the School of Engineering and recommended the restructuring of the exams. The committee recommendations were discussed extensively with the faculty and were voted into effect starting with the January 2001 Doctoral Exams.

The department received funding from the Dean's Office of the School of Engineering to assist in the upgrading of the Towing Tank under the direction of Professor Michael Triantafyllou and for providing state-of-the-art equipment in the Ship Design Computer Laboratory. In addition, the department provided matching funds.

The Navy XIII-A Design Lab was refurbished with new computers and furniture along with the installation of a CAD ship design tool to provide a more effective working space for naval graduate students.

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Future Plans

Professor Michael Triantafyllou will complete the development of the web-based class 13.49 Maneuvering and Control of Surface and Underwater Vehicles. He is also planning on writing a new book on maneuvering in collaboration with Dr. Franz Hover.

Professors John Amy and Michael Triantafyllou along with Dr. Franz Hover have started working on the development of a new subject that will introduce students to the concept of an all "electric ship." This concept promises to revolutionize ship design and have an impact of equal magnitude as did the introduction of steam at the turn of the century which replaced sails.

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Personnel Information

Departmental Awards and Activities

CDR John V. Amy, USN replaced LCDR Clifford Whitcomb, (USN Ret.) as Associate Professor of the Practice of Naval Construction and Engineering

Professors Arthur B. Baggeroer and Nicholas C. Makris continued their third year in the positions of Secretary of the Navy/Chief of Naval Operations (SECNAV/CNO) Chair and Scholar, respectively. Each award includes four years of support for one Research Chair and associated Scholar.

Dr. David Burke, with the assistance of Erik Millet, support staff, and Christine Salib, an independent contractor, are in the process of upgrading the Ocean Engineering web page.

Professor Chrys Chryssostomidis was the Chief Scientist of a ten-day expedition to Nisyros, Greece. Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) were used to explore the ocean bottom for archaeological artifacts. To the best of our knowledge this is the first major cruise using AUVs dedicated to marine archaeology. During the Nisyros expedition, the ocean bottom near Nisyros was mapped using side-scan sonar and was successful in imaging a medieval wreck of porcelain plates. Our long-term research objective is to ground truth side-scan sonar records with visual images and start building a library of sonar targets with visual comparisons that will help future explorers identify interesting targets.

Professors Justin E. Kerwin and Koichi Masubuchi, although retired, remained on 49 percent appointments and completed their final year of teaching and student supervision.

Professor John Leonard was appointed Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) coordinator for the Department of Ocean Engineering. Our challenge from ABET is to demonstrate that students have "the ability to work in groups to perform engineering design at the system level, integrating multiple technical areas and addressing design optimization."

Professor Nicholas C. Makris won the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Professorship of Ocean Utilization in July 2000 for his project "Monitoring Natural and Manmade Ambient Noise in Massachusetts Bay." This is a two-year professorship providing an annual budget of $25,000.

Professor Hank Marcus was appointed to the 26-member Marine Transportation System (MTS) National Advisory Council which advises the Secretary of Transportation on matters related to the marine transportation system.

Prior to his retirement, Professor Koichi Masubuchi and the department created a new fund account entitled "The Koichi and Fumiko Masubuchi Fund" to promote the publication or dissemination of information dealing with the applications of scientific principles and analytical understanding with emphasis on ocean and related engineering disciplines. Preference will be given to the dissemination of information resulting from Japanese and American scholar collaboration in these disciplines.

In honor of Professor Koichi Masubuchi, a welding research and engineering festschrift (proceedings of a conference) has recently been published. This festschrift commemorates Professor Masubuchi's career which has had a profound influence on contemporary science and engineering practices.

Professors Chip McCord and Cliff Whitcomb organized and conducted successfully seven short courses over a nine week period for the Professional Summer Program to meet unique Navy educational needs that cannot be met on-campus during the regular academic year.

Professor Nicholas Patrikalakis served as Chair of the Undergraduate Program Committee.

Professor Henrik Schmidt was elected a member of the Executive Council of the Acoustical Society of America (2000-2003.) In addition, he was appointed Chair of the Graduate Program Committee.

Professor Michael Triantafyllou was on sabbatical leave during the spring term to study the latest theory and technology of underwater ocean exploration. Although based in Athens, Greece, he visited Southhampton, England and Brest, France, among other locations. He also represented all organizations involved in the Nisyros expedition; MIT, National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), the National Centre for Marine Research of Greece (EKTHE), the Marine Archaeological Agency of Greece, and the Ministry of Culture.

Professor Michael Triantafyllou had an article on biomimetic work printed in the August 2000 issue of Smithsonian. In addition, there was extensive reference to biomimetic work at MIT in an article in the Science Magazine, April 2000.

Professor Kim Vandiver continues with his second year as the Dean for Undergraduate Research. This includes being Director of Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and Director of the Edgerton Center as well as the Co-Director of the Office of Academic Services.

Professor Tomasz Wierzbicki and Dr. David Burke developed and taught for the first time, a new undergraduate subject, 13.019 Computational Techniques for Structural Design. This subject includes completion of four design projects along with the study of basic theory and design of structures.

Student Awards

Xiaoqing Teng received the Rosenblith Scholarship for FY2001.

Katherine Croff, Kwang Lee, Young-Woong Lee, Anna Michel, and Athanasios Denisis each received a one semester Presidential Fellowship.

Katy Croff worked under the supervison of Professor David Mindell, Dibner Associate Professor of the History of Manufacturing and Technology, and under the auspices of MIT's Deep Sea Archaeology research group in last fall's discovery of well-preserved human dwelling sites at the bottom of the Black Sea. Katy also has a Knauss Sea Grant Fellowship in Washington, D. C.

Matthew Walter and Benjamin Connell both received an American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship which provides three years of funding towards tuition, stipend and fees.

Philip Taylor completed his final year of an ONR NDSEG Fellowship.

Alexander Kleiman receive the American Bureau of Shipping Fellowship for FY2001.

Ann Marie Polsenberg received the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) Undergraduate Scholarship for FY2001.

Anna Michel was notified that she will receive an NDSEG Fellowship as well as the Link Foundation Fellowship for FY2002.

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Teaching and Curriculum

The Acoustics curriculum has been reorganized so that 13.851 Fundamentals and Applications of Underwater Sound will be offered together with 13.810 Acoustic Sensing in the fall and will include more fundamental acoustics than previously. This will be followed by 13.852 Ocean and Seabed Acoustics which is a modified version of 13.863 Ocean Seismo-Acoustics except that it will now provide a thorough introduction to full-field waveguide propogation. 13.853 Computational Ocean Acoustics, a new subject typically to be taken in the second year will expose the students to all the significant computational approaches to acoustic and seismic waveguides.

The OE Undergraduate Program Committee is in the process of revising the curriculum in the structures area. Together with Professors Patrikalakis, Vandiver, and Wierzbicki and Dr. Burke, extensive discussions have been initiated concerning revision of our entire graduate and undergraduate mechanics, dynamics, structures, material and fabrication curriculum (including considerable exchanges with Course 1 faculty) a process which is still underway. The immediate result has been an agreement with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to co-list 13.013J/1.053J Dynamics and Vibration, and co-list and co-teach 13.014J/1.052J Materials and Structures, each fall, starting with the next academic year.

The integration of computer tools for the 13.412 Principles of Naval Ship Design, and 13.405 Surface Ship Computer-Aided Design, continues, with the incorporation of a product data model and CAD tool for 2000. Professor Whitcomb is working with Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) to develop their training course for their new Pro/ENGINEER Shipbuilding Solutions system. This CAD package will be used to teach ship design at MIT, and the curriculum will also be used by PTC to teach their software courses worldwide.

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Research Activities

The Department of Ocean Engineering recently completed a new program and research brochure which highlights the various programs in the department as well as providing an excellent overview of the research projects being conducted by our faculty and staff. Our gratitude to Dr. Joseph Fischer, Visiting Scientist in the Department of Ocean Engineering for his extensive writing, editing and supervision of this brochure. The department's faculty and staff continued their research in a varied number of programs which continue to receive worldwide attention.

Professors Baggeroer and Schmidt continued their work in broadband active and passive matched field processing in shallow water. In addition, Professor Baggeroer was developing a plan for ONR to construct an ocean acoustic observatory, and analyzing the noise field from the five vertical arrays deployed off Monterey, CA for the North Pacific Acoustic Laboratory (NPAL) Coherence and Full Field Processing under ONR support.

Professor Nicholas Makris continues his work in a variety of fields including acoustic detection and classification of hurricanes; spectral formulation for the Doppler-shifted field scattered by an object moving in a stratified medium; reverberation and submerged target scattering in shallow water, geological clutter experiments and a search for an ocean on Europa.

Professor John Leonard continued with the development of decoupled stochastic mapping (DSM) and initiated a new project under funding from Draper Labs for extension of the approach to multiple robot navigation. The goal is for several vehicles to cooperatively perform concurrent mapping and localization (CML). In addition, he is working on real-time implementation of CML onboard an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

Professor Nicholas Patrikalakis together with Dr. Takashi Maekawa, completed development of Praxiteles, (the official US Navy software for the exchange and inspection of marine propellers) further enhancing its utility for inspection and feature extraction. He also continued with Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF), a major National Science Foundation (NSF) ONR project which has as its objective the development of a generalized solid modeling method for SFF, providing support for design and representation of solids with local composition control (LCC), which is not possible in today's CAD systems. In addition, he also continued with his work on Poseidon: A Coastal Zone Management System over the World Wide Web. Considerable progress was made this past year in the area of metadata for data, the conceptualization of the metadata problem for software, and in the graphical creation of complex workflows for distributed execution.

Professor Henrik Schmidt's research on the multi-static active acoustics project, his main ONR core funded project, is to develop fundamental understanding of the acoustic environment of the seabed, and to develop new numerical models of the 3-D scattering by seabed objects, such as mines and hazardous waste containers, on and below the seabed in shallow water. Closely tied to the Multi-static Acoustics effort is the Generic Ocean Array Technology Sonars (GOATS), a new system concept for acoustic observations in the ocean environment, replacing the traditional hard-wired hydrophone arrays. This is done by a virtual array of small underwater vehicles, each equipped with a small aperture array, and linked together by high-bandwidth acoustic or optical links. GOATS is envisioned as the enabling technology which with the new 3-D modeling capabilities can be synergized into an entirely new sonar concept for mine counter measures and undersea warfare in shallow water. Professor Schmidt and Dr. James Bellingham have been granted a U.S. patent for this concept.

Professor Michael Triantafyllou completed the second phase of his research project funded by ONR, on the development of a rapidly maneuvering flexible-hull vehicle, the continuation of a previous phase undertaken with IS Robotics to develop a rapidly maneuvering vehicle. The purpose was to develop an industrial-strength

fast-maneuvering vehicle named "RoboMuskie." In addition to numerous other research projects, Professor Triantafyllou is also working on a snake-like robotic vehicle under Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) support. The purpose is to develop a flexible-hull robot in the form of a snake combining turbulence reduction and separation control through the transverse motion of its body.

Professor Tomasz Wierzbicki has completed the first three years of his Ultralight Project, Phase I where there were three objectives of the initial 3-year project: to develop efficient computational tools for crash prediction of thin-walled automotive structures reinforced by an ultralight filter; to assess the relative performance of the ultralight structures compared to traditional steel or aluminum components of car bodies from the point of view of their strength, energy absorption, and weight; to develop and optimization technique to minimize weight or maximize energy absorption of a given ultralight structure under certain performance and geometrical constraints. In addition, performance of several new design concepts bringing substantial weight savings such as sandwich sheets was quantified.

Professor Kim Vandiver is currently working on a project with a U.S. Navy student to reduce the injuries to U.S. Navy Seals riding in small high-speed vessels. The injuries result from impacts of the craft with waves, particularly in nighttime operations. He also continues with his vortex-induced vibration (VIV) of cables and risers which is sponsored by ten companies. This project emphasizes the development of response prediction computer programs and the development of new techniques for the suppression of flow-induced vibration. A major accomplishment of this research is the SHEAR7 Version 4.0 software which has been completed. Twenty-five companies plus the ten project sponsors have purchased licenses and are now using the program in their businesses.

Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis

More information about this Department can be found online at

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