AquatiClaw Grabs Departmental Award at Capstone Expo

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Members of the winning team—Tomas Silberberg (third from left), Ethan Hays, Thomas Milne, William Dickstein, Liam Roy, and Odinn Waguespack—pose with Testudo, Dean Samuel Graham, Jr. and Harry Dankowicz, chair of the ME department (right). The team worked with mentor Nehemiah Emaikwu ('17, Ph.D. '22) to build AquatiClaw, a lightweight, underwater manipulator.

An underwater manipulator dubbed AquatiClaw won the Mechanical Engineering departmental award at the A. James Clark School of Engineering’s inaugural Capstone Design Expo, held on May 1.

The Expo brought more than 500 seniors from across Maryland Engineering’s aerospace, civil and environmental,mechanical, and bioengineering programs to present their capstone projects, developed during a year-long process guided by faculty members and industry representatives.

Their efforts culminated in the Expo’s design competition, which was judged by experts in their respective fields. From among the ME projects, it was ultimately AquatiClaw—created by Ethan Hays, Thomas Milne, Liam Roy, Tomas Silberberg, and Odinn Waguespack—that took the top spot.

A low-cost, lightweight underwater manipulator or “arm,” it is designed to grab, sample, and inspect various objects. It could potentially be used to sample oysters in commercial aquaculture, or to repair marine machinery while it is submerged). 

Built with the guidance of Nehemiah Emaikwu ’17, Ph.D. ’22, AquatiClaw is made to be used with the BlueROV and other commercial submersibles and remotely controlled using a readily available PlayStation 2 controller. The concept was proposed by Professor Miao Yu (mechanical engineering/Institute for Systems Research), who has conducted extensive research into the use of robotics and other advanced technologies in aquaculture. Yu made her Maryland Underwater Science and Technology Lab available to the Spring 2024 teams, including the AquatiClaw team.

Other mechanical engineering capstone projects featured at the event included the latest iterations of the Get Out and Learn (GOAL) Engineering Kits for local school children, assistive devices for clients with disabilities.

Harry Dankowicz, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, noted the enormous diversity and range he saw at Capstone Design Expo. 

“Even in different engineering disciplines, our students are often tasked with the same kinds of challenges, and they have to bring in tools from outside of what they’re immediately learning,” he said. “There’s both the diversification of the problems and the convergences that really make a difference to solutions.”

As executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, mechanical engineering alumna and project judge Monica Watkins ’94 is always on the lookout for tomorrow’s engineers. 

"I have made it my personal mission to be involved," she said. "What I’m observing is the thought process—the intentionality, the critical thinking, the strategic planning and design. We value those skills. Not just that you’re an engineer, but that you have the mindset to work through problems and recommend solutions that we may not have considered."

ENME472. the senior capstone course in which the projects were developed, was taught this spring by several faculty members in the department, including Emaikwu, David Bigio, Aris Cleanthous, Davis McGregor, ahd Elisabeth Smela. To learn more about the 2024 Capstone Design Expo and the winning teams from all participating departments, check out our full coverage here.

Published June 9, 2024