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Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) builds the biggest ships in the world. These ships store and deliver millions of gallons of fluids via computer-controlled networks of pipes, valves, pumps, and tanks. A working, small scale demonstrator of these systems is needed for NNS to use in training and educational demonstrations. The demonstrator needs to allow for functional control of physical parameters by implementing a working instrumentation and control (I&C) system. Core components of this system are a programmable logic controller (PLC), a software development platform, a simulator, and a graphical user interface (GUI) on a human machine interface (HMI).

Project deliverables are the physically built demonstrator, as well as the PLC code with algorithm, HMI, GUI, simulator hardware and all of the applicable connections and driver boards. The demonstrator and all accessory equipment needs to be tabletop size while also being complex enough to show valid path finding techniques of the coded algorithm.

The students went with a simplified yet still multifaceted design based on four tanks, twenty-one electric valves and two pumps. With this degree of complexity, the demonstrator exemplifies how shipboard systems work, while also showing the routing algorithm’s ability to help increase efficiency in a larger network. The project’s simulator can be used to model arbitrarily complex networks, while the project’s routing algorithm can determine ideal paths through these modeled networks. The future of the project could see an interface that allows for more control of physical system that would have the ability to dynamically change due to conditions, such as sensed flow rates and blockages.

The routing algorithm could improve the efficiency of any fluid routing system. It also could allow for the reduction in the level of manual intervention needed during emergency situations, thus reducing the possibility of human error.

Publication Date



Electrical and computer engineering, fluid routing, automation


Electrical and Computer Engineering | Engineering

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Vennie Filippas

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Wayne Cribb

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Paul Summa

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Andrew Limbaugh

VCU Capstone Design Expo Posters


© The Author(s)

Date of Submission

August 2016

Fluid Routing System: Industrial Automation and Simulation