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 Special Topics in Mechanical Engineering: The Art   posted by  member7_php   on 2/17/2009  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Dewart, Christopher, Kurt Hasselbalch, Nicholas Patrikalakis, Reuben Smith, and Antonio Dias, 2.993 Special Topics in Mechanical Engineering: The Art and Science of Boat Design, January IAP 2007. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 10 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Special Topics in Mechanical Engineering: The Art and Science of Boat Design

January (IAP) 2007

The instructors and students pose with their completed half-hull model boats. (Photograph by Kurt Hasselbalch.)

Course Highlights

This course features video lectures, as well as an image gallery. This course is offered during the Independent Activities Period (IAP), which is a special 4-week term at MIT that runs from the first week of January until the end of the month.

Course Description

This class is jointly sponsored by the MIT Museum, Massachusetts Bay Maritime Artisans, the Department of Mechanical Engineering's Center for Ocean Engineering, and the Department of Architecture. The course teaches the fundamental steps in traditional boat design and demonstrates connections between craft and modern methods. Instructors provide vessel design orientation and then students carve their own shape ideas in the form of a wooden half-hull model. Experts teach the traditional skills of visualizing and carving your model in this phase of the class. After the models are completed, a practicing naval architect guides students in translating shape from models into a lines plan. The final phase of the class is a comparative analysis of the designs generated by the group.

Special Features

  • Sample video lectures
  • Image gallery

Technical Requirements

Special software is required to use some of the files in this course: .rm.


Course Description

In this workshop, participants will go through the process of carving half-models to their own design, and then work up a lines plan of their model. Through the experience of working with this older design method, participants will learn where contemporary, CAD technologies live on the evolutionary arc of boat design systems.

Course will include:

  • Visits to MIT Museum Hart Nautical Collection Half-model Room, and Plans Collection
  • Overview of Evolution of Boat Design Technology
  • Introduction to Carving Tools and Techniques
  • Introduction to Techniques for Taking Offsets from Half-models
  • Introduction to Techniques for Drafting Lines Plans
  • Explanation of How Builders Used Lines Plans
  • Introduction to Methods of Analyzing Drawn Lines Plans
  • Discussion of Strength and Weaknesses of Different Design Technologies
  • Discussion of Thought Process Involved in Designing Boats-using Intuition to Consider the Hull Form in a Dynamic State
  • Discussion of Iterative Process in Developing Designs-in CAD as Well as Half-model Design Methods



Major Assignments

This class requires regular attendance and participation in shop work and discussions. Students are not expected to create a successful hull design, but are expected to explore their ideas about hull forms using this design process. Students are expected to bring their preconceptions about boat design and then consider those preconceptions critically using this particular design technology. The class is about boat design technology, rather than simply boat design.

Grade Requirement

100% Class Participation


  • 9:30-11:00: Morning Introduction and Shop Safety Rules
  • 11:00-11:30: Primer on Course
    • Define Goals of Class
      • To give Students Experience in an Early Boat Design Technology, from Carving a Half-model by Eye, and then Translating that Shape into a Lines Plan which can be Analyzed, and then Developed into Building Plan
      • To give Students Experience in Understanding how Early Design Techniques Worked to Refine design by Intuition and "Boat Sense"
        • Half Model a Readily Recognized and Interpretable Representation of the Performance of the Boat
          • Beyond Simple Esthetic.
          • A Trained Eye, Experience Sailor/Designer/Builder Could Look at Form and Consider it in a Dynamic State, Using Mind as Computational Tool to Understand How Features of the form Assimilate
        • Process of Developing Lines More Opportunity to Refine the Shape
        • Process of Lofting Yet Another Opportunity to Refine Form
        • Essential that the Modeller Always Remain Skeptical and Critical of the Shape Their Creating
      • To Give Students an Awareness of How Design Methods Can Limit and Enable Development
        • Development of Half Model Designing Techniques, Replacing Whole Molding and Rule of Thumb Design, Opened up Hull Design Development Once Adopted
        • System of Lifting Lines, Creating Lines Plan, and Lofting Allowed for Scientific Analysis of Hull, as well as Allowing Designer to Exert Great Influence on the Final Product
        • But the System has Many Shortcomings: Time-consuming, Bad for Asymmetic Hulls, etc.
        • What are Advantages and Shortcomings of CAD?
    • Define Process of Class: Design your own Boat by Carving Half-model, Create Lines, Analyze Lines
      • Goal is to Use the Half-model Method to Explore an Idea of a Design
      • Show How the Half-model Design Process is Iterative, and How Ideas are Refined Each Step of Process - How Thoughtfulness and Awareness of Process at Every Step Influences Outcome
      • Grade Based on How Well the Students Use the Method to Challenge their Own Assumptions and Develop their Ideas
        • Requirements are Attendance and Participation. Morning Lectures Every Day at 10:00 AM, Presence Required
  • Morning Lecture
    • Brief Overview of History of Boat Design Techniques
    • Give Basics on How the Form of a Half-model is Translated into Something that Can be Built From.
      • My Jig
      • Herreshoff Methods
      • Sawing Model, Separating Lifts
    • Begin Process, Going Around the Room and Extemporizing, of Developing Ideas for Design. Encourage Students to Start with, then Challenge, their Own Assumptions
      • Type of Boat
      • Use of Boat
      • Power of Boat
      • Develop Idea of Essention Lines to Start With
        • Explain Usefulness of Different Sheer Shapes
        • Bow Lines
        • Stern Shapes
      • Basically Do What we Can to Prime the Class to Make the Most of the Visit to the Model Room
  • 1:00-1:30: Lunch-advise People to Bring Lunch
  • 1:30-3:30: Getting Started on Designs
    • Go to Half Model Room
      • Once Back, Begin Developing Essential Lines, Drawn onto the Blocks of Wood


  • Morning Lecture
    • Demonstrate Carving Techniques and Tools.
    • Influence of Tools and Method on Form, Limitations of Ideas
      • Familiarity with Tools
      • Understanding Intuitively How Tools will Help Create a Readily-built Form
    • Understanding Intuitively How the Resistance of the Wood Influences Shape


  • Morning Lecture
    • Using the Jig to Pull Shapes
  • Carving and Finishing Models
  • Pull Sections


  • Morning Lecture:
    • Introduction to Lines Drawing
    • Techniques, Layout, Method, etc.
    • Opportunity to Re-think Design
  • Afternoon:
    • Pulling Shapes Off Models
    • Expanding Other Views on Paper
    • Interpreting as You Go


  • Finish Lines Plans
  • Analyze One or Two
  • Discussion on How Method Informs Idea
  • Discussion of Difference to Computer Drafting
  • Discussion in Model Room
  • Discussion in Plans Collection
  • Shop Cleanup   Tell A Friend