End-of-Year Whirlwind

Gardner Howe, Marine Systems Student Ambassador

"Do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of."      Ben Franklin

December was a whirlwind of activity in the Marine Systems program.  We completed our lectures and practical exercises in key marine systems (plumbing, thru-hull fittings, tankage, fuel systems and steering) and took our ABYC certification exam.  It was a challenging exam, covering experiential knowledge on a wide range of systems, and the standards that have been developed to keep them all safe and reliable.  Our class did well and we quickly moved on to composites.  

We spent a week with a guest instructor - Kelsey Britton, IYRS’s Program Manager and Instructor for the Composites Technology program.  She led us through an introduction to composite materials and their application in the marine environment.  Each student installed a thru-hull firing, and each team made a fiberglass cover for the back of the AC panelboard on our sims (as required by ABYC, and a fiberglassed a set of supports and “bench” into a simulated hull.  It was a fun week and incorporated both old (wood working/electrical) and new (fiberglass and resins) skills.

Kelsey demonstrating the use of a mold to make a fiberglass cover.

We then moved on to marine electronics. This segment of the program was very different from the initial electrical training; we were now focused on the marine industry’s standards for the installation of radios, antennae, radars and other electronic sensors/displays.  We had another guest instructor who led us through the various formats of digital communication and the efforts to make marine electronics as close to “plug and play” as possible.  It was fun to talk from sim to sim on the VHF radios we installed (using antennas we built!), and to get the radar to link up with the multi-function display.


Guest Instructor Hugh Lupo leads our marine electronics installation week of classes.


My partner working the VHF radio we installed on our sim while the radar takes a look at our surroundings. 

After the break, we starting digging into diesel engines - literally.  The first practical exercise was to tear down a non-running engine, and put it back together to learn the components and how they all fit/work together; a great experience, even if I did lose some flesh to the metal edges I didn’t see while turning a wrench!  

In the upcoming weeks, we’ll get our running engines and work through practical exercises focused on routine maintenance and troubleshooting common problems. 

So we’ve covered a lot of diverse topics since November.  I continue to be surprised by how quickly time is flying by - too quickly!  Over the holidays, I came across the following quote attributed to Mark Twain - it really got my attention:

 “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did you. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover.”

I know those twenty years are moving more quickly now than ever before.  As I reflect on my time at IYRS so far, I grow even more grateful for the opportunity this program has given me to “throw off the bowlines” and to “Explore. Dream. Discover.”