Falmouth Academy’s Community Series will continue on Thursday, February 6 at 7 PM at the school’s Simon Center for the Arts. Andy Bowen, director of WHOI’s National Deep Submergence Facility and Falmouth Academy Alumna Allisa Dalpe ’12, a 4th-year Ph.D. candidate in Ocean Engineering at the University of New Hampshire, will discuss ocean exploration, the role evolving development of new robotics technologies have played in ocean research, and the implications for future explorations both on this planet and beyond.
Bowen has spent his career at WHOI developing robotic vehicles designed to explore the far reaches of the oceans. Starting with Jason, Jr., the small tethered vehicle that explored the Titanic, he has worked with colleagues to develop subsequent technologies (Jason Jr., Jason, Jason 2, Nereus, and the Nereid ) that have extended human reach and catalyzed new discoveries. “While the challenges of getting complex equipment to function at 6,000 meters have been a great source of enjoyment,” Bowen says, “I have come to appreciate the more abstract objective of bringing new tools into use for science as my most rewarding achievement.” Bowen is fortunate to work in a place that values learning by doing and he works closely with the scientific community, often leading sea expeditions to implement and troubleshoot existing technologies and imagine new and complex ones. Bowen recognizes that this area of study is a “high-risk, high-return” environment and cautions, “Exploration of our oceans is constrained by the need for cost-effective vehicles to explore what we can presently reach and open up the potential to access new parts of the deep sea.” Bowen’s latest technology is promoting the use of hybrid vehicle technology where many of the attributes of autonomous and tethered vehicles are merged. Such robots can work independently but also take a spectrum of direction from human operators via unique tethering technologies. Pioneered with the development of the Nereus hybrid vehicle that explored the deepest reaches of the ocean to its descendent vehicle Nereid which is designed to explore under the ice.
This past summer Dalpe joined an expedition of the Ocean Exploration Trust as a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) engineering intern aboard the E/V Nautilus. The expedition goals were two-fold: to locate and document the wreckage of the pioneer in long-range airmail and freight, Pan American airliner, Samoan Clipper, lost off the coast of American Samoa on January 11th, 1938; and to collect baseline information from the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, an area that had never been explored before.
In words that echo Bowen’s own, Dalpe recalls, “There is a saying that engineers have the most fun when something is broken. I like solving problems.” Bowen takes this one step further when looking back on his thirty-plus year career “For the engineer, there can be no better reward than to have one’s work herald new opportunities and transform how we understand our environment.”
Please join Bowen and Dalpe as they share tales from the deep and imagine together the future of ocean exploration, the contributions of robots and other technologies, and the implications this work has for explorations beyond the Earth. A question and answer period will follow the conversation.