ST ISR FeatureEngineers Compete at the 11th International Submarine Races
Competitors in the races line up their submarines for timed runs in the David Taylor Model Basin, a 22-foot-deep pool at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock.
Following an 18-year absence, the U.S. Naval Academy, piloting the SSH-11 Mighty Mid, returned to sweep the 2011 International Submarine Races, taking the awards for overall performance, fastest two-person nonpropeller submarine and the Spirit of the Race. The overall performance award, for which the team won $1,000, is based on the submarine, the participants and the performance of both. The Spirit of the Race award is voted on by the contestants; it is given to the team that displays the best gusto, fortitude, support for other teams and spirit.
Florida Atlantic University, a race participant since the race’s inception in 1989, also won several awards. Its sub, Talon-1, reached a top speed of 6.814 knots, taking the prize for the fastest absolute speed and fastest speed in the one-person, propeller-driven category. Talon-1 also received second place for overall performance. An all-female crew raced the submarine in some of the successful runs, capturing record-breaking speeds in that category.
The biennial International Submarine Races, now in its 11th meeting, were held in Maryland at the David Taylor Model Basin at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock, from June 27 to July 1. The highest-ever number of submarines, 28, competed from 24 teams representing seven different countries and including nine new teams. Record-breaking speeds for a human-powered event were achieved in more 280 individual runs. The international contestants came from Canada, England, Venezuela, France, Mexico and Oman. The U.S. was represented with teams from across the country, at both the high school and university level, as well as independent teams not affiliated with an educational institution.
The event is sponsored by the Foundation for Underwater Research and Education and the Carderock facility to test the skills of young engineering students from colleges, universities, technical schools and high schools. The competition is designed to spark student interest in science, technology, engineering and math careers.
Seacoast School of Technology’s one-person, propeller-driven entry, the Scuba Doo.
The commanding officer of the Carderock facility, Capt. Heidimarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, welcomed the contestants to the unique testing facility on the first day of the event. “As submarine designers, builders and racers, you are part of a unique engineering challenge dating back more than 200 years.”
Race Categories and Setup
Teams compete in several different categories, depending on their submarine’s configuration and the team sponsorship. Participants wear scuba gear to race in one- and two-person submarines along a measured course in Carderock’s 22-foot-deep model basin.
Months before the contest, racers spent hours, weeks and months after school and on weekends to reach their goals. During this process, they also became scuba trained and certified.
When contestants arrive, officials inspect their submarines and equipment for safety requirements before they can place their boats in Carderock’s model basin to race. Each submarine proceeds alone down a well-lit course equipped with cameras at 10 meters apart. The cameras are linked to an electronic timing system that calculates speed to the nearest thousandth of a knot.
High School Teams
This year, the races had more high school teams participating than in previous years. The Maritime and Science Technology Academy made a first-time entry of a single submarine, named PTEROTRACHEIDAE I when the nonpropeller sub had one occupant and named PTEROTRACHEIDAE II when it had two occupants. During one of its runs, the sub collided with the basin wall, breaking the transparent nose cone. The team came up with a creative repair, fixing the damage by adding aluminum strips to form a new cone and covering it with a plastic shower curtain, welded and duct-taped together.
Old Saybrook High School, also a new team, entered a one-person, propeller-driven sub with a chain drive and bevel-gear design that made several successful course runs. There were also two returning high schools, Sussex County Technical School and the Hernando County Springstead High School. The Hernando County team brought two submarines to this year’s event, including the defending overall performance winner in 2009, Sublime.
Damage to the nose cone of PTEROTRACHEIDAE I after colliding with the wall of the model basin. Students repaired the shattered nose cone with aluminum strips and a shower curtain.
Race judge RAdm. Dick Van Orden, former chief of naval research and now retired from the U.S. Navy, said the competitors represent the future of worldwide peace and prosperity.
“What they learn here, in both technical and social relationships, will lead them into more effective cooperative activities and improved foreign relations,” Van Orden said.
Jack Evans, the executive director for Program Executive Office Submarines, emphasized the need to attract and retain the best and brightest minds available as a guest speaker at the prizes and awards ceremony. “We are currently designing ships and submarines that will be in the fleet through the year 2080,“ Evans said.
Event Sponsors and Awards
The organizers recognized the event hosts, the Naval Sea Systems Command and Team Sub. The platinum sponsors were General Dynamics Electric Boat and the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society. The gold sponsors included Hap Perry, Intelligent Decisions and the Marine Technology Society.
Silver sponsors were Clark Construction Group LLC, Compass Publications Inc. (publisher of Sea Technology), General Dynamics Information Technology, International Submarine Engineering, the Naval Submarine League and Oceaneering.
The race also benefitted from in-kind sponsors, including Adventure Scuba Co., Aqualung, Brass Anchor, Deep Sea Power & Light Inc., J. Teague Enterprises LLC, Kongsberg Maritime, Ocean Technology Systems, the Sprint Emergency Response Team and vitaminwater.
The best design outline award, sponsored by Compass Publications Inc., went to the Universite de Sherbrooke for its SMASH submarine. Harry Martin of Intelligent Decisions sponsored the innovation award, and Henry A. Perry, founder of the races, sponsored the overall performance award.