yachts monaco eye

Boat Design

MIT Boat Design
Photo: Kurt Hasselbalch - MIT Creative Commons

Monacoeye mostly focuses on what goes on above the water - hardly surprising, as that's the visible part. But all sailors know that the business end of every boat is the bit below the water-line. Hull designs vary enormously with both fashion and function and the traditional way of rendering this design was by sculpting a half-hull model.

There is a fascinating one-week course held at the world-renowned MIT engineering school, which takes students through the process of creating one such half-model design.

Tutors quickly run through the history of boat design, explaining why 16th century boats looked so circular, alongside general principles such as how displacement and semi-displacement hulls work and why surfboards and container ships are at opposite ends of the design spectrum.

Happily, this is mostly achieved by a tutor flailing his arms in the air in the workshop, pushing imaginary volumes of water out of the way, with a refreshing absence of equations and over-head projectors.

This is followed by a trip to the vaults of the MIT Museum to compare hull designs in the large collection culled from the last 200 years. The dozen or so students come from a wide range of courses - aeronautical engineering post-grads alongside geology first years. The next stage is in the workshop where the hulls are made.

If you're interested but think you're too old, would never get the grades and can't afford the time or money, you can sit in with their Opencourseware. MIT have been putting most of their courses online, entirely free and open access.

Typically they video seminars and publish assignments and booklists. Quality varies and you get no personal contact or accreditation. But you do get an insight into some of the best teaching in the world.

This particular course is mostly practical, so you'll have to be content with being a spectator in the workshop. But the five one-hour videos give a fairly painless introduction to some of the basics of boat design.

In the final video the museum guy reveals that MIT are not just content with giving the world free access to their teaching materials, they're also busy digitising the contents of their museum, which includes 36,000 designs, including a huge Herreshoff collection. Yet again the US is teaching the rest of the world a lesson about free access to information.

MIT Opencourseware: The Art and Science of Boat Design

Videos: IntroductionMIT MuseumModel BuildingFinishingConclusion
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