I recently read an article on Wired about the Solar Voyager. A pair of engineers, Isaac Penny and Christopher Sam Soon, designed and built an autonomous, solar powered vessel. On June 1st, 2016 the 18 foot vessel, named Solar Voyager set off on its trans-Atlantic adventure from Gloucester, Massachusetts to Portugal, a journey of more than 4800 kilometres. They are predicting that this trip will take 4 months, assuming that there are no catastrophic events mid-Atlantic. One cool thing about this trip is that the Solar Voyager reports it position and other data online every 15 minutes at http://www.solar-voyager.com/trackatlantic.html. Currently, about two-weeks into its journey, Solar Voyager is just South of Halifax, Nova Scotia where I live.
The image below shows how far the Solar Voyager has traveled during its first two weeks. That is 1/8 of the time estimated for the crossing. Based on the information below, do you think that it will reach its destination in 4 months? What factors did you consider when making your estimation?
Some factors you might consider are currents, weather, equipment malfunction, obstacles/collisions, wear and tear, etc. There are so many variables at play that it must be very hard to make an accurate estimation.
Some Questions/Estimates for Students:
One of the coolest things about this project is that these young engineers "built Solar Voyager in their free time, undertaking this voyage simply for the challenge." How can I commandeer this type of intrinsic motivation for students in math class? What about this project made them want to work so hard "just for the challenge" and not for some extrinsic reward. Was it because they were the ones who selected and designed the task? Did they have just the right skills so that they felt confident that they would be successful? What is something that was relevant to their lives? How did this project captivate their curiosity?
Update: Solar Voyager ran into some trouble south of Nova Scotia. It appears it got tangled in some fishing gear and the props and rudders were fouled. After drifting for over a week, the vessel was picked up by HMCS St. John's, a Canadian Navy offshore patrol vessel.