Un-harboring Trash

A System for Collecting and Storing Marine Trash

3 years, 10 months ago | SKILLS: CAD / electronics / Mechanical Design

How can we design a harbor-based docking station that interfaces with an autonomous aquatic trash-collecting vehicle?

Senior Capstone Project for Yale ABET Mechanical Engineering

Impact Focus

Sustainability | Green Engineering


Design Skills

Electronics  |  Programming   | CAD   | Manufacturing


Team Size

Three – All of us seniors in ABET mechanical engineering


In this year-long capstone project for ABET Mechanical Engineering, teams of 3 seniors were prompted to research, propose, design, prototype, and construct a machine for collecting, reducing, or repurposing trash in a specific environment. While ideation, research, and assembly were completed as a team, individuals each proposed their own concept sketches, contributed portions of CAD to the final design, and conducted field tests and experiments. 

Like a dump truck on land, cardboard prototypes of an open-mouth aquatic debris collector helped inform the mechanical design of the lifting lever arms on a stationary docking & storage unit. 

My team tested our device in a controlled aquatic environment by securing access to the gymnasium rowing tanks. Calculations and prototype refinement of buyancy ensured that both our docking station and collection vehicle would float and operate successfully.

I was responsible for electronic architecture of the entire project. All motors and sensors were controlled through an Arduino Mega, which I powered externally to provide sufficient current to the 25V linear actuators and heavy duty servo motors on the arms of the docking station. I conducted a series of SolidWorks strength simulations specifically on connecting pieces designed to be 3D-printed. I led in-lab experiments on the docking station to ensure consistency and accuracy of the vehicle-to-station interface.