Arduino-based desktop device teaches students the basics of sailing before they get on board a real boat

Arduino-based desktop device teaches students the basics of sailing before they get on board a real boat

A simple Arduino-based desktop device in the form of a mock-up boat with a sail and a fan from a PC can effectively teach students the basics of sailing before they get on board a real boat.

Sailing is a great way to push yourself beyond your current capabilities and start exploring the open waters. The sport can also present some risk to the helmsman and his crew if they are not familiar with how the boat behaves in different wind conditions.

As device inventor Keef Scheuer notes in his project description, traditional teaching is based on simple 2D illustrations, so he decided to go a step further and build a hands-on demonstrator with a model sailboat to teach students the basics in a more realistic/physical way.

“I’m relatively new to sailing, gaining experience on my own boat, and helping a local non-profit educational program. Through learning about sailing and watching others learn to sail, I realized that some people have a really hard time dealing with the variability and change in wind direction depending on the orientation of the boat,” explained Scheuer.

Therefore, Scheuer decided to create a device designed to simulate sailing. He decided to make a wind generator from a 5V PC fan (80x80mm), which is powerful enough to drive the sail of a small model boat.

Scheuer mounted the fan on an aluminum lever located on the output shaft of a NEMA17 stepper motor. This solution allows the assembly based on the Arduino UNO Rev3 to turn the fan in different directions.

The model sailboat is similarly connected to another stepper motor so that it can rotate according to the updated position of the fan on its bow. Other electronics in the project include a display to show the current mode, a potentiometer for user interaction, and several buttons that control the mode and angle of rotation of the fan.

Once the stand is assembled, the future waterbender can switch between different modes: manual, selective, random and wind, with the latter mode allowing the user to turn the fan rather than the boat to observe the sail’s response.

Scheuer made the source code for the stand microcontroller (Sail_Sim4.ino) open access.

The author of the project explained that he still has many ideas to improve his sailing simulator, including implementing dynamic mainsail tension for a larger boat or using a more powerful fan. He also plans to add a staysail (triangular sail) to the boat and release a thinner wood or aluminum box option to lighten the hull.

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