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Frequently Asked Questions

About AVAST: Mission, Scope, & Vision

What is AVAST and what will it do?

'AVAST' is WHOI's new initiative to accelerate innovation and improve collisions in ocean research, design, and education. AVAST will provide a framework of training, funding, and other resources to build greater capacity at WHOI to develop programs and projects that are difficult to do with existing infrastructure. Part of this framework is a physical space where AVAST can foster research collisions and technical collaborations (the AVAST Innovation Hub).

Although AVAST takes its name from "Autonomy, Vehicles, and Sensor Technologies", these embrace only part of the spectrum of new projects and programs that AVAST seeks to support at WHOI.

What is AVAST not designed to do?

In order to keep a focus on its mission, AVAST will place low priority on allocating resources that:

  • Primarily serve to alleviate departmental space crunches
  • Involve long-term storage of project-related equipment
  • Represent fabrication work unrelated to AVAST projects or programs
  • Support projects or programs with minimal promise for collision
  • Don't have a clearly defined endpoint within a 18-month timeframe
How much does it cost to use AVAST?

For most users at WHOI, beyond raw material costs there is no fee to use AVAST resources. WHOI staff and students are expected to contribute to AVAST's wider mission and goals, through participation, activities, and collisions. AVAST will work with larger projects or programs that absorb significant AVAST resources to identify appropriate cost-recovery strategies.

What type of projects & programs does AVAST support?

The vision for AVAST is for it to support a very broad range of ocean research, development, and education. Of particular interest are the types of projects and use cases that WHOI can't support currently with its existing facilities, spaces, and resources. AVAST does not consider technical merit when approving Use Requests.

Core principles for AVAST include the following:

  • Fostering new, innovative, collaborative projects we couldn't otherwise pursue at WHOI.
  • Supporting a wide range of users and activities, broadly across WHOI.
  • Disseminating WHOI-grown advances back into WHOI for wider community benefit.
Is AVAST just for projects? Can it support education? DE&I? Workshops?

AVAST has a role in DE&I at WHOI, especially in engineering & technical areas where diversity remains low. AVAST also strongly encourages proposals for education & outreach including classes, workshops, seminars, and training. AVAST's social hub space can be configured for many types of use.

Using the AVAST Innovation Hub

How do I apply to use the Innovation Hub?

Visit the AVAST Requests page on the AVAST website. Posted there is everything a potential user needs to know including policies and guidelines, resource availability, floor plans, equipment information, and the form needed to start the process of requesting AVAST spaces or resources.

Is DunkWorks part of AVAST? Will DunkWorks still have memberships?

DunkWorks is now part of AVAST and freely accessible to any project using the Innovation Hub and also to all 'off-the-street' WHOI users: technicians, engineers, and researchers but also postdocs and students. AVAST supports an experimental machinist to provide walk-in service and support from 11-3:30 each day. All DunkWorks users must go through new user training, offered routinely by AVAST.

Will there be a test tank?

AVAST has multiple tanks for different uses. AVAST provides nearby access to the current 'Sundance' tank, now being upgraded with a jib crane and site work. Smaller ballasting and experimental tanks are available at the Innovation Hub. A indoor tank with temperature and gas control is dedicated for sensors calibration and testing. See the Innovation Hub resources page for more information.

What if I just need to build a small widget or use some tools?

This is exactly the type of incidental use that AVAST is hoping to provide. Once a person has completed any required safety and equipment training, such occasional use of DunkWorks, the workshop, test facilities, etc. can be done as needed by coordinating with the AVAST Operations Manager.

How is space/use allocated and who decides?

AVAST's Use Request form asks users to explain not just what they need from AVAST, but also how their use will contribute to AVAST's broader mission at WHOI. All requests for space, occupancy, or substantial resource use will be reviewed by AVAST and in some cases by the AVAST Oversight Committee, to ensure that all uses of space and resources align with AVAST's mission.

Are there any restrictions to using the Innovation Hub?
  • No specific individual, lab, or program will have a permanent presence in AVAST.
  • All projects must have a timeline and clear endpoint.
  • Larger projects and programs must contribute proportionately to broader impact.
  • Any use of AVAST included in an external proposal must be first approved by AVAST and the Oversight Committee in advance of submitting the proposal.
I'm not a technologist. What's in it for me?

AVAST can be used for activities other than nominal R&D. AVAST's main conference room is outfitted with top-of-the-line videoconferencing support and is available to the WHOI community for general use. The AVAST Social Hub is similarly available for activities and events. Educational programs and courses with technology aspects can use the Innovation Hub for teaching space and can use equipment for instruction. AVAST staff will be on hand to conduct tours as needed.

I have an idea, but lack expertise. Can AVAST help?

AVAST provides technical experts to get you started in the right direction. Beyond its full-time staff, AVAST envisions supporting Engineers-In-Residence: members of WHOI's technical and engineering staff who can help advise users and advance projects. AVAST will also help you make connections with other engineers and experts within WHOI, so you can find the right people to help you with your specific technical needs.