Maine Maritime Academy is evolving its curriculum with newly created Center for Vessel Optimization and Digitization

Published: Apr. 1, 2023 at 10:57 PM EDT
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CASTINE, Maine (WABI) - Back in December, the office of Senator Susan Collins announced Maine Maritime Academy would get $2.5 Million dollars through A 2023 Education Appropriations bill.

Those funds will enable MMA to acquire equipment and technologies in what will be a newly created Center for Vessel Optimization and Digitization and will put the Academy’s curriculum at the forefront of learning digital and automated operations on vessels that already use those technologies.

“I have electronic navigation one and two and those are probably my favorite classes here actually,” said Elizabeth Cashman, a 2/C at Maine Maritime Academy

As the trend toward digital automation continues in the maritime world,

Classroom learning at MMA is doing the same.

Students in this lab are building digital circuits that convert analogue signals to digital signals.

Even though these students have grown up with the kinds of technology they’re going to be using, there is still a lot to learn.

“They know the end result, they know how to use autonomous technology and things like that. But a lot of times they don’t really know anything about the process of how it actually works. And so they really get into those details here at Maine maritime, you know, that they wouldn’t really get most other places,” said Associate Engineering Professor Don McCann.

“It’s very important to know how to work with those systems, and how to fix the systems as well if there are failures. There, because electronics are not perfect. So I think it’s important to know how to use the system and work with a system.,” said Cashman.

MMA Provost Dr. Kieth Williamson says the funding Education Appropriations bill is vital to the Academy both now and going forward.

“The technology is always changing. It’s a digital world. New sensors are going to come up, new computer software is going to come up. But getting them in this space and getting them to use their creativity in a new way, once we get them into this space, the kind of talent that you see these kids demonstrate is just phenomenal,” said Williamson.

“We are in an age where we’re just transitioning out of more analog type stuff like the charts and other integrated systems, to now electronically integrated systems. When I was a freshman, we came in and it was pretty much still all paper charts. In our classes now, instead of, ‘Okay, we’re going to do it on paper and we’ll talk about theoretically how to use the electronic versions,’ it’s more, ‘We’re going to work on the electronic versions and we’re going to touch on how to use paper and analog.’ You’re more likely to get on a ship that is going to use an electronic chart versus paper chart,” said Natalie Samules, a 1/C at Maine Maritime Academy.

The Training Ship State of Maine- built in 1990- as served as the Academy’s training vessel since 1997. It’s been updated as technology has improved, but the Academy will be getting a new, state of the art vessel next year, making a curriculum focused on digital automation even more important.

“Even on the engine side, we’ve automated the engine room to a large extent, but with the new ship, that automation is going to be next level and that’s what you know the students that are coming out of here in the next several years will be seeing on their ships when they get to them as employees. So the more we can prepare our students for those changes, the better,” said Master Gordon MacArthur of the training ship State of Maine.

“I’m actually really grateful for the experience we’re getting at Maine Maritime for being able to get the hands on with both analog and electronic but focusing more on electronic,” said Samuels.