The School of Ocean Science and Engineering (SOSE) at The University of Southern Mississippi held the Unmanned Maritime Systems (UMS) Certificate program for the fourth year in a row, starting in late August 2020 and finishing this past week.
The class of 15 graduates held a ceremony while observing COVID-19 guidelines. Graduates, guests, faculty and speakers maintained a six-foot distance and wore masks. The ceremony was also streamed live via Zoom for those who could not attend in person.
Through the UMS Certificate program, students learn foundational material in oceanography and ocean engineering principles related to unmanned undersea and surface vehicles (UUVs and USVs), such as powered vehicles and gliders. The four courses, totaling 10 credits, are compressed into five weeks of instruction and are intended to provide sufficient background to safely operate these vehicles in challenging marine environments.
During the UMS course, each student obtains a kit containing parts from which they build an educational glider. Building this glider helps them to understand electronics and soldering, as well as ballasting dynamics critical to safely operating UUVs and USVs. At the end of the course, the students race the gliders in the tank at the Marine Research Center in Gulfport. The person who has adjusted the programming and ballasting to be most efficient usually wins.
“The experience of teaching a diverse group of students in unmanned systems in the hands-on small classroom setting allows for collaborations which will continue beyond the classroom,” tnstructor Kevin Martin said. “Oceanography, especially unmanned systems, is a small ever-growing group of scientists[, and] collaborations allow for the advancement of this technology and field.”
While the program successfully graduated 15 students this year, it was not without obstacles.
“The students and staff of this year’s UMS Certificate program did a superb job to overcome delays due to the pandemic and an active tropical storm season,” Rich Delgado, the Coordinator of the Unmanned Maritime Systems program at SOSE, said. “They made the 2020 session another successful opportunity for learning the fundamental principles of unmanned systems operation.”
The UMS Certificate program is unique in that it is the only one of its kind. Beginning in 2017, the fourth graduating class brings the total number of graduates from the program to 78. Chris Winstead Ph.D., Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, is one of many who hope to see the program continue on for years to come.
“We like to think that we continue to lead in academia and in research for the maritime industry or ‘Blue Economy’. It’s really a focus for the University for our Gulf Coast operations[,] and we also want to be an enduring partner not only in the Blue Economy[,] but in our national defense,” Winstead said.
Winstead also expressed to the graduates, “We look forward to having you on [Team Blue] well into the future.”
To learn more about the School of Ocean Science and Engineering at Southern Miss, call 228.214.9010 or visit https://www.usm.edu/ocean-science-engineering.