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Team Vision for Problem Definition Phase


  • Specify problem statement
  • Contact customer to review project goals
  • Establish team roles
  • Document all work


  • Conducted customer interview 
  • Set customer and engineering requirements
  • Considered potential use scenarios
  • Determined stakeholders
  • Established team values and roles
  • Created loose project plan and timeline
  • Documented all work in Confluence

Project Summary

SailBot is a new portable device that can assist a sailor in steering a sonar. The device converts intense physical labor into a simple, easily controlled method. SailBot is designed to be helpful for sailors with any disability and will be adaptable to match the abilities of each sailor. Currently, any robotic assisted sailing requires a proprietary, expensive boat or takes a long time to set up.

The goals of this project are to create a new device that uses current technologies to make a portable, comfortable control method for a common sonar boat. The expected result is a prototype that is intuitive for the user; and that boathouses can install and remove quickly between sessions.

Link to project summary here

Use Cases

Various scenarios of Sailors using SailBot are laid out below. Use scenarios were a tool to help understand feature and requirements needed.

Use Scenario 1: 

A blind sailor requests to have a sailing session at 1:00PM one afternoon. The conditions of the ocean are relatively rough waters with 14 knot winds. Between the time the sailor checks in at 1:00 and the time he has to leave at 2:00, he must sign into the boathouse, make his way to a sonar boat with an installed SailBot, get the boat in the water, complete his session, bring the boat back in, and sign out of the boathouse:


Use Scenario 2: 

A sailor with a missing hand wants to go sailing, but can not control ropes in high wind conditions due to the strength required. The sailor makes an appointment with Community Boating to use SailBot to assist them. The Boathouse filled their schedule entirely and the instructor had to quickly prepare between sessions:

Use Scenario 3:

A Sailor with a disability sets an appointment to use SailBot. Conditions are very tough and the Sailor has trouble staying on course. The instructor is able to override and assist the sailor in safely navigating to the dock:

Use Scenario 4:

A first time Community Boating member sets an appointment to use SailBot. The user does not find Joysticks comfortable and wants to control the boat using a different method. The instructor uses SailBot's "sip and puff" control method to steer the boat instead of a joystick. 

Project Goals and Key Deliverables

  • Portable steering device with joystick control system (and possibly "Sip and Puff" alternative method)
  • Designed to be compact and installed by 1-2 people in less than 20 minutes
  • Includes override options in case of emergency
  • Powered by a removable battery
  • Compatible with Sonar boats

Customer Requirements (Needs)

Requirements based off of Use Case scenarios in addition to interviews with the Director of UAP, Sam Peirson. We discussed common issues with their current joystick controlled Sailing, and also any desired features that customers have requested.

19ComfortableSailor should not experience any level of strain or discomfort during use
29IntuitiveEasy to use for sailor
39Override FailsafeAbility to disconnect system, with seamless transition to full manual control
49DurableCan function in 12-20 knot winds for a 1.75 hour session, anywhere between early April to late October in Boston
59Tiller OperationProvide power assisted control over the boat's tiller
69Joystick ControlControl operations by method of joystick
89Discreet OverrideSmall corrections by instructor during session, without sailor knowing
76Installation TimeBe able to install quickly, ideally < 20 minutes
96WaterproofShould not be damaged by direct water contact, such as rain or high humidity
106"SipnPuff" ControlControl operations by method of straw
116PortableTwo people maximum carrying unit to and from boat
126CompatibleMinimal modifications to existing Sonar boat
136Removable BatteryPrevent battery damage during winter storage
206Joystick CenteringTiller returns to center position when no controls are being sent
143FloatsPrevents unit sinking in case dropped in water
153Intuitive InstallationAny person with no prior knowledge would be able to fully install and repair
173Multi-boat CompatibilityDevice can work with Keel Mercuries
161Boom OperationProvide power assisted control over the boat's main sail
181Touch ControlOperator can touch on a phone where to go (map of water)

A working customer requirement document can be found here

Engineering Requirements (Metrics & Specifications)

Engineering Requirements were created from the customer requirements. Engineering Requirements added specific metrics to give SailBot targets to achieve. This can objectively show if SailBot has achieved its requirements.

Engineering Requirements #Customer Requirement(s) #FeaturesMetricTargetDirectionIdeal Goal
ER1CR5Tiller OperationHas Tiller ControlYesN/AYes
ER2CR4Battery PoweredBattery Life2 HoursHigher4 Hours
ER3CR2, CR6, CR10, CR18IntuitiveFamiliar electric control1 Control MethodHigher3 Control Methods
ER4CR4DurableFunction in High wind15 KnotsHigher20 Knots
CR7, CR15, CR17

Easy to Install

Weight80 LbsLower50 Lbs
ER6Time to InstallInstallation time between appointments20 MinutesLower5 Minutes
ER7Used on different boatsNumber of boats functional on

1 Boat

Higher2 Boats


Has Disconnect OverrideYesN/AYes
ER9Has Joystick OverrideYesN/AYesYes
ER10CR9WaterproofWater resistant to splashes/rainYesHigherWater resistant to full submersion
ER11CR1ComfortWires, actuators, components, etc. do not
need constant readjustment or interfere
ER12CR11PortableCollapsed/folded/stored volume4x3.5x2.5 feetLower3.5x3x2 feet
ER13CR12CompatableAttachment methodStandard nuts/boltsLowerDamage free snap-on/stick method
ER14CR13Removable BatteryBattery installation methodYesN/AYes
ER15CR14BuoyantAble to float if dropped in waterRoom for possibilityN/AYes
ER16CR16Boom OperationAbility to control mainsailRoom for possibilityN/AYes
ER17CR19Crash AversionSailBot can autonomously steer to avoid collisionsRoom for possibilityHigherAbility to detect and steer
ER18CR20Joystick centerTiller returns to center position when no controls are being sentYesN/AYes
ER19CR5Tiller RangeAngle off of center that tiller can turn in either direction60 DegreesHigher80 Degrees

ER 20

CR5Tiller SpeedTime that tiller should take to move between max positions1 Second(s)Lower0.5 Second(s)

ER 21

CR8, CR15, CR17Easy to InstallTools required to install SailBot1Lower0
ER 22CR12ModificationsNumber of mounting points6Lower4

A working engineering requirements document can be found here 


  1. We are limited to testing at the Rochester Yacht Club, where we may not be able to modify their boats to the extent we need for thorough testing.
  2. Due to the facility limitations and uncertain Rochester weather patterns, it is a possibility that testing will not accurately reflect the conditions SailBot will ultimately be used in. 
  3. Not concerned with capsizing of boat, as sonars are already unlikely to capsize and any hazard of doing so is out of our scope. 
  4. We were not provided an initial funding estimate from the sponsor and must propose our own budget with efficient use of all available resources. 
  5. Our product only focuses on controlling the tiller; as per the customer requirement, we are not concerned with controlling the sails.

House of Quality

The House of Quality chart above displays the relative importance of each engineering and customer requirement for the SailBot device. The most important qualities of the device are that the tiller operation and joystick control are durable and functional in the sailing conditions and that the user finds the device easy and comfortable to use.

A working House of Quality document can be found here.

A copy of our first revision of a comprehensive risk management chart can be found here.

Design Review Materials

Links to:

Plans for next phase

  • Communicate with Rochester Yacht Club about using their facilities and boats for testing
  • Submit finalized financial proposal to Community Boating for approval
  • Begin concept generation
  • Begin feasibility analysis and making test plans 
  • Update deliverables in Confluence

Link to the current draft schedule looking ahead to phase 2 here

Three week plans for each individual team member linked below:

Amit Rogel

Matthew Miller

Max Messie

Mike Robinson

Thomas Davis

Erica Kabat

Peer Evaluations

Peer evaluations were completed for all team members for phase 1 following the problem definition review.

Peer evaluations link

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