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Media Contacts: Troy Anderson
Tel. (858) 822-3075 Fax (858) 534-0351

July 17, 2000


For almost a year, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering students have been putting their top-notch education to good use. In September 1999 the team of about 20 members began designing a human powered submarine with one goal in mind: shattering the Human Powered Vehicle Association’s world speed record for non-propeller human powered submarines. Nearly a year later, they will get their chance July 21 to July 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Offshore Model Basin ( in Escondido, California. For directions, please call 760-737-8850.

The Jacobs School team will attempt to break the non-propeller record. Teams from UC Santa Barbara, University of Michigan, Virginia Tech, University of Washington, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, L’Ecole Polytechnique Superiere (Quebec, Canada), University of British Columbia (Canada), and San Jose State University will also be competing.

Each team designed and built its own submarine. UC San Diego team captain, Scott Ketcham, says the San Diego sub, christened “SubSonic,” was modeled after a dolphin fish. “The submarine swims much like a dolphin. It has a horizontal tail fin that moves up and down for its propulsion. The submarine also does not use any external control fins for steering. Directional control of the submarine is done by the use of vectored thrust and dynamic ballast tanks. This reduces drag to achieve higher speed,” explains Ketcham. “During testing, all these systems have proven to work well and have already unofficially propelled the submarine beyond IHPVA and World Record speed for both the one person and two person non-prop submarines.” The UC San Diego submarine also includes a software program to control the depth of the sub.

The vision of the human powered submarine competition is to foster innovation and team design skills among engineering students. Participants receive real-world experience in a number of engineering fields including composites, fluids, electronics, mechanics, and submersible systems. The contest is hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the Oceanic Engineering Society. Current sponsors include the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering, ASME, IEEE, OES, COI, Sempra Energy, Nokia, US Grants, Shell, Hamilton Sundstrand, and Orincon.

Ranked among the nation’s top ten engineering schools by the National Academy of Sciences and number 15 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, the Irwin and Joan Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego is an excellent institution in the midst of vibrant growth. Its mission is to educate young men and women to be industry and academic leaders, and to create new innovations that fuel economic prosperity and improve quality of life. The School awards B.S., M.Eng., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees through five academic departments, providing the largest and most comprehensive engineering education program in San Diego. To learn more about the Jacobs School of Engineering, visit its web site at

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