The Mort Bay Boat School will resurrect Australia first dry dock which was used to build Australian Navy war ships and played a pivotal role in the formation of Australia's Labour Party. 

The long, deep and narrow profile of the dry dock provides a dramatic backdrop as mariners from the school and public enjoy the harbour city coastline. In order to provide a user centred, technology driven learning and recreational facility, we have developed a system of highly integrated automated systems that provides a decentralised platform to literally engage from the moment you enter the workspace. 

Students can instantly research, sketch and collaborate with peers. Start building a new boat with personalised tools and materials immediately at hand. Complete maintenance or upgrades and even launch your brand new vessel. This is all possible from the very moment you step on to the build platform which we affectionately call The Host. The host is where students will spend numerous hours thinking, collaborating, building and innovating. It is the first and last thing you touch every time you visit The Bunker - (thats what we call our workspace).

Perhaps this sound a little too whimsical? A mix of hyperbole and optimism? In a digitally connected 24/7 era, this hyper responsive system is powered by an innovative teaching model connected to deep learning analytics which directly optimise automated mechanical systems to create seamless user centred experiences.

Boat Launch

The bespoke boat launch system has been tailored specifically to the unique needs of this boat school. We extensively investigated all existing automated boat storage and launch systems , but found fundamental system deficiencies and compromises  that we were simply unwilling to accept.

With a solid understanding of existing systems, we re-imagined the boat launch system with the innovative host system as a base. This has resulted in a new system that is inherently stronger more reliable, compact, adaptable and predictable than any other system currently on the market.


This is the only system that allows the boat to pass through the zero point of movement along the horizontal axis. This allows the lift system to consist only of two vertical and two horizontal beam based armatures. No overhead steel structure, no clear space for complicated lifting/docking systems or fork lift turning circles, no complicated in water boat centring systems that take valuable water front space away from general use.


The lift system utilises simple linear movements that are more easily synchronised using remote computer control. Other systems suspend the boat in mid air using steel cables, this introduces a point of deflection as inertia acts upon the vessel. Unlike complex electronic systems, no one part of this launch system is asked to do more than one linear movement, dramatically increasing system precision and accuracy.


The circular Host and C section profile means the boat only needs to be centrally placed between the lift arms, orientation of the boat is inconsequential. The central strong-back can be adapted to suit virtually any shape boat or vessel. The vertical columns can be extended, scaled or duplicated indefinitely to suit all use cases. When not in use the system occupies the  space of two vertical pillars, making it uniquely applicable to all waterfront scenarios. 


Each section of the list system is asked to move in only one linear plane and the boat is cradled independently of the lift touch points to the Host. The inertial stability of this system allows it to reliably operate an order of magnitude faster than any other system currently in existence. 


Each axis of movement is handled by separate linear beam based armatures dramatically simplifying mechanical movement. Hydraulic or gear based movement that does not expose electronics to the elements. The Host C shaped outer profile locks the platform to the lift arms making rotational tipping or failure virtually impossible.

The most prominent electronic systems employ two independent electronic platforms which are required to move independently using powered wheel systems under the boat, extend via scissor mechanisms in the vertical axis, articulate radially to various hull shapes, extend in the x axis further to suspend the boat and then move the vessel synchronously. This approach introduces numerous points of failure and is not cost efficient.


The Host platform is built around a circular steel C shaped profile with a central strong-back supported by steel cross bracing. This is structurally much stronger than other rectangular platforms and keeps the launch lift system well away from the boat itself. 

The lifting system is built around two vertical steel columns which are secured at their base and along their vertical backing to create precise linear movement without deflection. 




The Host System

The Host system is made of five individual mechanical components which combine to provide the backbone for learning, ingress/egress, storage and launch facilities. These unique mechanical systems are employed only in The Bunker - work section of this building. This part of the building consists of three levels, two of which are accessible to students/staff and the general public. The hearth level is stepped down 500mm from the surrounding ground level approach. The work level sits below this, within the confines of the exhumed dry dock. The basement level is below the work level and is not user accessible. It's primary function is to serve as storage for all hosts (and subsequently boats - complete or not), as a base for the lift system and house back of house functions such as AC, Air compression and extraction units. In this section we focus solely on the mechanical function of each user exposed component.


The Host Platform

The host is circular platform 6 metres in diameter. It is the central key to the storage, retrieval and launch systems and is at the epicentre of the learning experience. The Host platform is built around a circular steel C shaped profile which allows the platform to easily and securely interface with other components. A central strong-back supported by steel cross bracing is situated at the centre of each platform, this enables the platform to carry all intended boats at any stage of construction.

Floor Lock

The floor lock is analogous to a front door, feature window and skylight all in one. Located within the hearth floor slab and extending through to the work level ceiling, the floor lock features two 6m circular floor locks, which disengage and rotate in to the the exposed ceiling structure to allow the lift system  raise and lower the Host platform between the Hearth, Work and Storage levels. The Floor lock supporting structure has been designed around the rotating arc of the locks themselves. This structure is also used to mount ceiling (on the work level) and floor (on the hearth level) baed balustrades which ascend/descend when the lift system is activated for the safety of users on and around the Host in use.


The lift system enables the movement of Host platforms between Hearth, Work and Basement levels. The lift platform contains four self aligning contact points which secure the Host from unwanted horizontal movement. The system employs four hydraulic or gear driven arms to maximise safety. The system could function sufficiently with only two arms, thus providing a backup system in the event of partial system malfunction or failure.

Internet of Things

The bespoke mechanical systems, forward looking pedagogical approach and system driven design approach are tied together through could connected Internet of things analytics. Metrics observed via IOT devices enable the system optimise and augment itself around the tendencies and preferences of users, whilst also accounting for environmental our situational factors. This is a burgeoning and quickly expanding field that we are just starting to truly understand. Here are some of the metrics that might be captured