An interdisciplinary senior project class (ENGR 459) is working with a national non-profit to help people with disabilities surf.
AmpSurf is a non-profit national organization headquartered in Pismo Beach “established to Promote, Inspire, Educate and Rehabilitate (PIER) all people with disabilities and their families through adaptive surfing and other outdoor activities,” according to their website. The AmpSurf senior project team was assigned to create a modified surfboard that could aid with these goals for the organization.
The team’s overall goal was to create a surfboard that can be used by AmpSurf participants both with and without an instructor, using a wireless remote control that can transmit signals to the motor that will power the board.
“One of the goals is also to teach the rider how to surf and be able to teach them how to use the system and make it as simple as possible, so then they can also go out and surf and have that feeling to do it themselves and enjoy being out in the water,” mechanical engineering senior Victor Joaquin said.
When two people are on about 11 foot-long surfboard, it can be difficult for an instructor to paddle fast enough to catch a wave. The motor within the board will assist by powering it to move at a minimum speed of about 5 mph.
Seniors are given an industry with an engineering problem and are required to create a solution over a nine-month process. Mechanical Engineering Department Chair Jim Widmann said the point of a senior project is for students to gain new skills and knowledge while designing their projects.
“It’s not about the project, it’s about the process,” Widmann said.
The teams were presented with about 20-25 options for projects and ranked them 1-5 on what they would prefer. The members of the AmpSurf team included general engineering seniors Jojo Fleischman and Michael Beard, mechanical engineering seniors Lauren Jensen and Joaquin and electrical engineering senior Spencer Esparza.
Joaquin said their surfboard uses electric batteries to power up an electric motorized propulsion system and a jet pump.
“That jump pump is going to pull in the water from the ocean and then start accelerating it, start creating pressure and then shooting out a jet which will propel this board from the back of it,” Joaquin said.
Although the team said most of the parts are understood to be waterproof or water-resistant, they ordered a waterproof hatch for all of the mechanisms to go in.
“We are going on the basis that nothing is waterproof, so we are trying to make this hatch that is covering all of our components completely waterproof,” Jensen said. “If water were to get in this cavity it would be really bad.”
Jensen said the team will give AmpSurf all the “means to repair the board if they need to or if something stops working or they need to get into the board to fix it.”
Some senior projects within the interdisciplinary class are sponsored financially by different companies, but in this case, because AmpSurf is a non-profit organization, the team applied for a grant in the fall through Cal Poly’s CPConnect.
“It’s very [common] to not get it the first time, so we [were] very fortunate to do it the first quarter and start working on it as soon as we could,” Joaquin said.
The budget for the team was about $5,000. The surfboard itself, costing about $1,200, was passed down to the AmpSurf team by a previous senior project team attempting the same goal. The team began by repairing a hole the previous group had left and then started on their own work.
As of May 9, Jensen said the team has spent about $3,500-$4,000 and that they should be able to finish it without going over their budget.
“The motor and the jet pump were the most expensive parts by far,” Jensen said. “We ordered them from a company in Germany that specializes in watercraft-powered equipment, but we’ve also spent money on surfboard repair.”
Over the last nine months, the students went through different stages of designing and development to finally progress to where they are today. Esparza estimated they have spent a couple hundred hours over the three-quarter-long process.
“So far it’s been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve had at Cal Poly, being able to do this all hands on,” Joaquin said. “It’s a lot of Learn by Doing, which is Cal Poly’s motto.”
The team spends at least three hours twice a week during designated class time. Jensen said they also take turns working on it outside of class and get together during the weekend.
“I think the big thing overall that we struggled with was coming to concrete decisions and making moves forward, but we’re past that,” Jensen said. “At this point we’re just doing all that we can to make a final product.”
The new surfboard will be shown at the College of Engineering Project Expo May 31 in the Engineering Plaza.