Protei Cardboard Model




Introduction: Protei Cardboard Model

About: Education: - Sailing robots: Protei Inc & Scoutbots CEO Personal:

The goal of Protei is to deploy ocean sensors on a shape-shifting wind-powered modular platform. Global warming, ocean pollution (plastic, oil spills, radioactivity) depletion of fish and coral, acting as a data link between satellites and underwater devices... There are plenty of reasons to build autonomous surface vessels. So let's do this open-source. Here some past prototypes:

This is just a cardboard model, a "research note" - not a functional sailing robot. This is just to explore a new design direction. Also, a way to show how to turn an idea into something tangible. This model was built in 6 hours with basic tools and recycled materials. Budget is 0$, Only a bit of wood glue.

For my part, I had to put this shape-shifting sailing robot "Protei" development on hold for almost 2 years in order to build MakerBay, a MakerSpace in Hong Kong. But now, I am back at developing it, and so excited about it. As an Open Hardware project, I want the entry bar to be as low as possible. For this reason, I have drafted a development roadmap while being an Impact Resident at Autodesk Pier 9 (next step). The world of autonomous robotic sailing is moving fast and I want to develop a design that opens that field for everyone, from the kids, to the researchers.

I made a quick search of some really interesting recent development in autonomous robotic sailing and tried to compare the superficial features. Please dig in these links, so many amazing projects / companies:

  1. Saildrone:
  2. Wave Glider:
  3. Datamaran:
  4. Ada from UBC:
  5. PilotHouse :
  6. A-Trima:
  7. ArduSailor:
  8. Green Powered Sailbot:
  9. Epsom School Sailbot:

The top 3 ones are companies, they seem to be doing good but their products are very expensive, or / and not publicly documented. Below #3 these are mostly universities efforts and are either not super stable or not fully sharing their documentation - some are open source (hi5!). I would like to bridge that gap.

Also because the sailing robot I am interested to develop has many similarities with a snake robot, I also did some researches about snake robots:

  1. Sneel, by my friend Gabriella Levine:
  2. Titanoboa:
  3. NTNU University Norway Research of robotic snakes: and
  4. SnakeRobot S2:
  5. EE 125 Robot Snake:
  6. Kraken:

There are many many robotic snakes projects out there, I definitely don't know all of them, but I love seeing more of them - staying up to date with them. Please comment and suggest inspirations with images and links :)

Step 1: A Roadmap to Get Back on Developing Protei, Short Term

This is my roadmap for the next few weeks of work:

  1. "Protei Cardboard Model" to see and feel the size of the components. Built entirely from waste and recycled materials. That this instructables!
  2. "Protei Mini-RC 001": small, simple and affordable, that can be made as an activity for kids and control via standar RC transmitter. The goal is to make it under 100 USD per unit.
  3. "Protei Mindstorm 001": using a standard that kids know and love, that many schools already have and use as a STEM education tool.
  4. "Protei Particle Pi 001": using Particle and Raspberry Pi for coastal mapping in a GSM range.
  5. "Protei RockBlock 001": using RockBlock for satellite communication. Probably on top of the previous ParticlePi. But honestly, if I get to #4 and things work out ok, I would be so happy already.

So let's go : "Protei Cardboard Model" step by step :)

Step 2: Collect Free Materials, Aim Far and Walk Back

I try to minimize the use of materials for environmental reasons, and also because i think many people don't have access to fancy materials and tools, so that's a constructive voluntary constraint I believe would help me make a product that is more relevant to more people. I collected cardboard from the bins around the workshop and scraps, and slightly changed the dimensions of the box so they would be close enough to the Pelican Case 1200, that I want to use as "standard" building my modular sailing robot. But.. wait, what is a "modular sailing robot" If that is not clear yet, it will become more clear in the next steps.

I love to the Pelican 1200, but I am not ready to buy multiple units if I am not exactly sure what I am going to do with them.

Step 3: Napkin Drawings, Rough 3D Design, Better 3D Design

I made this 3D model after I built the "real -cardboard- thing". It's just how I work - I think faster with materials in my hands than on a computer. But I made these models to test it later...

If you are a Fusion 360 user, you can download the model here :

If you are a Sketchup user, the file is below attached.

I put the 3D file upfront, in case you want to use it for your own design.

Step 4: Make 3 Boxes

The Pelican 1200 is 9.25" x 7.12" x 4.12" (23.5 x 18.1 x 10.5 cm). So that's the size I cut my boxes. 3 of them.

Step 5: 3 Decks That Can Be Chained

Next was to build 6 identical decks that could be chained. I added arbitrary values here, roughly 30mm on the sides, and 50mm in the overlapping deck front and back. I found some pieces of round wood that I borrowed as masts.

Step 6: Adjusting the Height of the Hulls to Match the Boxes

I adjusted the height of the hulls and stuck the keel underneath. I tested the masts but soon realized they were very unstable. In the finished "product" the masts are still unstable, but hey, that's ok, it's just a model :)

Step 7: Let It Dry!

I used clamps that helped me stabilize the modular hull.

Step 8: Play With It!

Why do I make a physical prototype? To play with it. To feel it. To imagine how it would feel with different materials, at a different scale. Perhaps try parts inside the box, try different configurations... Imagine how I could build this better.

In just 6 hours of building I had a lot of fun and now I have a much clearer idea of what I am going to build next!

You can see some previous Protei prototypes here :

Also, I will soon bring back the Protei website and consolidate the documentation in a new wiki - my apologies for the long silence! You also want to check Protei 007 by Gabriella Levine instructables here, and Protei 009.1 by frits297.

I am looking for your feedback and suggestions - how to make this boat better.
I can't wait to build the real thing, throw it in the water and tell you how it goes. Thank you very much !!!

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    3 Discussions


    1 year ago

    hope your still involved with this innovative research, very interesting

    cesar harada
    cesar harada

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks ! More coming !