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Engineering Students Put FRED to the Test in Mission Bay

Engineering Students Put FRED to the Test in Mission Bay

Tents were pitched, the sun shined, and boardshorts abounded, but it was not a typical day at the beach for four University of San Diego Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering students last Friday.

Zach Sourwine, Cameryn Seymour, Jazmyn Gonzalez and Desmond Jones put their solar-powered semi-autonomous robot, FRED (Floating Robot to Eliminate Debris), to the test, including ping-pong ball recovery, long-distance trips and autonomous navigation.

Over the summer, the students worked on FRED through an internship with Clear Blue Sea, a San Diego based non-profit start-up with the objective to help cleanse the ocean of plastic pollution.

Sourwine, a senior mechanical engineer, spoke about the impact that the project has had on his future career. “I hope to do something with sustainability engineering in the future,” he said. “I think this really sparked a passion for it.”

Friends, faculty, and local news cameras observed from the shores of Mission Bay to see FRED’s conveyor belt and solar-powered engine collect floating plastic and navigate the bay.

For Engineering Academic Advisor, Samantha Przywitowski, these undergraduate experiences are essential for students.

“When you watch a student struggle through Calc I, Calc II, Calc III and then they are taking Statics, the next thing you know they are working on a real-life project,” Przywitowski said. “To have any internship where you apply what you learned is invaluable to any student, a wonderful experience.”

As summer concludes, the FRED project will be passed on to new engineering students who will build off what this past year’s group contributed toward ridding the ocean of plastic waste.

— Story and Video by Luke Garrett ’20

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