SAOT Sets Sail

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The SAOT crew and their guests from Aalto University

„During the summer of 2017, FAU researchers and their guests from the countries bordering the Baltic Sea will forge new ideas together on the sailing ship ‘Thor Heyerdahl’. Our goal is to grow together by sharing new experiences, while strengthening interdisciplinary research on a range of specific themes that are critical to our world today.” (

After a hard internal selection procedure five doctoral candidates from SAOT were lucky enough to join this journey of science and adventure. Coming from two different backgrounds, material processing and data analytics, the SAOT crew set the goal to find ways to combine their knowledge and see how machine learning can improve the quality of additively produced parts. In order to get even more input SAOT invited Professor Jouni Partanen and members from his group from Aalto University in Finland to join us.
While the whole team prepared for scientific discussions and talks, no one was aware and prepared for the work that was necessary to sail a ship like the Thor Heyerdahl. Unlike some modern sailing ships there is no button to push to set the sails, check the engine or set the course. All work needs to be done by hand – day and night. So every team of the three teams on board was responsible for the ship for 8 hours every day. This meant taking care of the sails and the 60 year old engine that helped us when the wind was down, navigating, checking the weather and of course manning the rudder. Even though this kept the SAOT crew quite busy, there was still enough time in between to discuss scientific problems, approaches and possible solutions.

The ship being rather small, members of the other teams would often overhear these discussions, join in and give input from a different perspective. So it was common to find mechanical engineers discussing with computer scientists, electrical engineers and mathematicians.

In addition to these very fruitful discussions on board the crew also had the chance to present their research to the public during Open Ship Days in Helsinki and Tallinn. Visitors came from local universities, companies and the interested public. While everyone was interested in the ship, lots of interesting scientific discussions were also held.

All in all the SAOT crew comes back from this journey with lots of new ideas for their research, proposals and collaborations and is already preparing for next year’s turn.

SAOT sets course to new horizons


The SAOT crew in Tallinn