Undergraduate thesis opportunities

At the Research Centre on Sea Technologies and Marine Robotics, several master thesis are available.
A list is presented here:

1. PoseiDRONE: parameters optimization

Focusing on PoseiDRONE Project, we propose a thesis on underwater locomotion paramiters optimization.
The dynamics of the locomotion depends on the shape of the body and on the control law of a robot. In the model of PoseiDRONE, several geometrical parameters determine the final motion of the robot: by varying these geometrical parameters is possible to increase the speed, perform high jumps or swim over fissures in the terrain. In this work, the candidate will work on a model of PoseiDRONE with the aim of evaluate the different locomotion achievable by changing the geometric parameters of the model. A target function should be define (as for example fastest speed, highest jump, longest jump, etc…) and simulations will be performed, by varying the parameters, until a sub-optimal combination, that define the design criteria of the robot, is reached. As additional work, the candidate could develop a simplified version of robot that will be used to validate the design obtained.

Work in brief:

  • Define a suitable target function
  • Choose an optimization technique
  • Simulate the optimized robot
  • Develop a suitable mock-up for experimental validation

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 2. Sea Urchin Project: biology task

We propose two thesis on the Mediterranean sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus: the study of the vertical locomotion and the characterization of spine movement.
The purpose of the first thesis is to investigate, under laboratory conditions, the spontaneous, stimulusless vertical locomotion of adult P. lividus and characterize it by resorting to the comparison of the various indexes (Straightness index, the time-discretized and dimension-discretized Sinuosity index, the distributions of turning angles, the directionality parameter and movement rates).
The purpose of the second thesis is to describe the fine movement of sea urchin spines, integrating these data with the cognitive science project task.

Work in brief:

  • Optimize tracking method for the purpose
  • Collect data from the animal study
  • Mathematical data analysis
  • Extrapolation of animal biology conclusion from the analysis

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3. Sea Urchin Project: cognitive science task

The objective of the thesis is to develop a mathematical framework for the study of the self-organization of a complex (many degree of freedom) system inspired by the sea urchin (basically a sphere with many spines). For which parameters the system exhibit a cognitive behavior as pertinent locomotion?

Work in brief:

  • Mathematical definition of the self-organizing system
  • Exploration of the dynamic of the system for different parameters
  • Design the system to be capable of complex periodic limit cycle

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4. On aspects of the fluid dynamics of a deformable self-propelled underwater robot

Three MSc level thesis are proposed concerning various aspect of the propulsion of generic deformable self-propelled underwater robots such as the PoseiDRONE. 

4.1 The interested student is invited to participate on the numerical analysis of the vortex formation at the exit-plane of the nozzle of the robot and derive the contribution that the vortex ring has on the thrust of the robot. This work entails the employment of commercial CFD softwares such as FLUENT or CFX. The student is provided acces to a 32-CPUs workstation in order to perform, if needed, computationally-intensive simulations. This work is suited for a student with engineering background, but can also accomodate the intrest of motivated student from biological or environmental science who has the will to pursue a more numerical thesis.
Work in brief:
  • study the relevant state of the art in vortex-ring aided propulsion
  • gain experience with a CFD commercial software
  • set up a number of numerical experiments to derive the thrust produced by a vortex ring


4.2 Upon request from the interested student, a thesis dedicated to the expansion of an existing in-house 2D Navier-Stokes solver developed by the researcher of the laboratory can be pursued. This work may entail the introduction of solid boundary implementation via the use Immersed Boundary Methods. This work is suited for a student with a stronger mathematical background.

Work in brief:

  • study the background of Navier-Stokes solvers with projection-method pressure-velocity coupling
  • implement a new treatment of the solid boundary with employment of Immersed Boundary Method


4.3 A thesis with a strong experimental flavour is proposed concerning a very innovative and highly promising research topic. This work entails the development of a set up for measuring the added mass of a deformable robot during waterborne locomotion. The study also entails the realization of a full set of experiments aimed at measuring the contribution from added-mass recovery on the thrust of the robot. This work is suited for both a engineering student and a biology student with a strong interest in aquatic locomotion.
Work in brief:
  • study the background of the concept of added-mass in biological aquatic locomotion
  • design and build a laboratory set up for the measurement of added mass
  • define a set of experiments aimed at assessing the contribution of added mass recovery on the thrust of a deforming body in water
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