Today, around 40% of the world’s population lives within 100km of the coast, a number that is expected to increase. At the same time, sea levels rise has accelerated and is currently estimated to rise 26 inches by 2100. The picture this paints is an increasing number of people becoming more at risk to the effects of climate change and sea level rise. In order to promote sustainability and resiliency, new solutions are being tested and implemented across the globe. One of these is floating homes. Contrasting with a houseboat, which is typically a boat converted into a house, a floating home is quite literally a home that floats. They offer the potential to create entire floating neighborhoods and cities that can adapt to the oceans. This concept always brings up the question of infrastructure. How will power be generated? Are solar and wind the only options? It was these questions that brought us to our project.
What it does
Yeah Buoy! is a generator that harnesses the power of the ocean's waves to bring natural energy to any application on or near coastal waters. The most minimal setup of Yeah Buoy is being anchored to a seabed with a buoy on top. A generator inside is attached to the taut anchor rope. As the waves move, the rope moves up and down, generating electricity that can then be stored or transferred. The key difference between Yeah Buoy! and other power generating buoys is that it is designed specifically for coastal and shallow environments. It is small enough for multiple Yeah Buoy!’s to be placed on the underside of a dock, floating home, or any other stationary floating object. Since waves are almost always moving, Yeah Buoy! can provide a constant stream of power, acting in concert with a battery as the sole electricity provider for a home or as a backup generator for a primarily solar home.
How we built it
Yeah Buoy! was made primarily in Autodesk Fusion 360 and Siemens NX using a custom housing and off-the-shelf components from McMaster-Carr and Reelcraft. We first created 2D sketches of the basic layout we were looking for, including all of the necessary components. Once that was completed, we looked online for CAD designs of the components, including an alternator, linear bearings, bolts, and a hose reel. We then designed the exterior housing, keeping in mind the potential for the system to have a buoyant bottom side for individual buoy use. Once the CAD design was finalized, we took the resulting mass and inserted it into an equation we found from a similar existing design. From there, we used public swell data from coastal cities around the world to put together a Housing Power Calculator showing how much power Yeah Buoy! could generate under ideal conditions. We also put together a website that acts as a landing page.
Challenges we ran into
We had three main problems while we were building Yeah Buoy!. Firstly, our fourth teammate had to drop out about an hour into the hackathon, leaving the three of us to finish on our own. Secondly, while McMaster-Carr had the majority of the hardware we needed, we had trouble trying to find a proper generator and hose reel. This is because we needed to find a generator that was both not too big and also had the ability to create enough power. Finally, we had some issues in Fusion 360 with regards to putting together the assembly, sharing the parts with team members, and dealing with dimensions.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are definitely proud of all the work we have put into Yeah Buoy! over the previous 24 hours. Particularly, we are proud of the assembly, house power calculator, and the website.
What we learned
We learned a lot more about how to utilize numerous detailed outside CAD components in combination with custom designs, the physics and equations behind how electricity-generating buoys work, and how to insert tables into websites using Bootstrap.
What's next for Yeah Buoy!
The main thing we want to do with Yeah Buoy! is to finalize the CAD design. There are a lot of parts that we didn’t have time to figure out, including how to make sure it is water tight, what anchor to use, and how to safely route the power wires out of the design. Since using foams can be environmentally detrimental, we want to experiment with using generative design for the housing so that it is light, strong, and durable against sea water.