Slackjaw Sally here to tell you a bit about the Sentry team. Sentry is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) so it doesn’t need a human to drive it around. It follows its preprogrammed path mapping the ocean floor and collecting data. It has a streamlined body and 4 propeller-like thrusters to help it move about. Sentry can function up to 6000 meters below the ocean surface – over 3 miles deep. Yikes! Six thousand meters, even I won’t go below 1000 meters – I’m under a lot of pressure down here and I just couldn’t take it at that depth.
Anyway, Sentry can’t do all this by itself. There’s a team of 5 engineers at sea to keep it going! Sean is the program manager, Zak is an electrical and software engineer, Justin is a mechanical engineer, and Mike and Stefano are research engineers. They are part of the National Deep Submergence Facility at Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). This is one of the most versatile groups of engineers at WHOI. They have to handle everything that happens with AUV Sentry while at sea and if something breaks, they use what’s available to fix it. They are the engineers and the operators. Mike points out “this is a case where engineers suffer the consequences of the results of their engineering”!
AUV Sentry has been in development for about twenty years and has been used for research for about a dozen years. During the last ten years, its been out to sea more and more frequently. Even though it’s under continuous development, it spends about 240 days at sea each year! This means that some of the new instruments and abilities are being fine-tuned while the submersible is out here, and the Sentry team has to be ready to make adjustments, corrections and repairs at any time.
These folks enjoy their work. They like the challenge and the variety, and they get to work on lots of interesting and cool projects and meet many interesting people. Zak says working with Sentry onboard is about 50% what you think you’ll be doing and 50% what you really are doing. When they work on shore, it’s desk work, but out here it’s everything and anything that needs to be done. Justin likes to travel and the flexibility to explore. He feels that being onsite and working on the thing that you helped build makes it better in the end.
When they’re not working, they like to play Ping-Pong in the main lab. Justin also enjoys electrical tape face art on Sentry near the end of a cruise. All agree that the food’s delicious!
Got to swim!