News Release

Jacobs Undergraduates Post Fast Time in Human Powered Submarine Contest

Inviscid 2004
The Jacobs School team's "Inviscid" subm arine speeding to the finish line during the 2004 Human Powered Submarine Contes t. Click here for hi-res image courtesy Phillip Colla Photography

San Diego, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2004</ st1:date>  A team of engineering stud ents from the University of California, San Diego posted the top speed in the on e-person submarine category at the 2004 Human Powered Submarine Contest held Jul y 28 through Aug. 1 in Escondido, CA. The UCSD students, undergraduates enrolled in the Jacobs School of Engineering, pedaled their fluorescent green submarine to a top speed of 6.035 miles per hour. The University of Washington’s one -person submarine came in second at 5.775 mph. The only two-person submarine in the competition, entered by the École de Polytechnique Superieure in Montre al, Canada, posted a top speed of 7.700 mph.

This year’s lineup also included teams from the University of Washingto n,

MAE studen ts who participated in the 2004 submarine contest talk about the event in this v ideo report.  Length: 3:59
 Texas A&M University, École Polytechnique de Montré ;al in Canada, and San Diego’s Hi gh Tech High. The teams raced one- or two-person submarines at Escondido’s Offshore Modeling Basin, 578 Enterprise Street. The Modeling Basin’s pool, which is 300 feet long and 15 feet deep, is normally used to test models of submersible or floating oil co mpany structures, and it has also been used to film underwater segments of T itanic, Free Willy 1 and 2, and other m ovies. The race is held at the Modeling Basin in even-numbered years and at a si milar facility in Maryland in odd-numbered years. 

Each team in the competition was allowed a limited length of time to make as many runs as possible through an underwater “speed trap” where Model ing Basin cameras and timers generated the official results. The importance of d esign and practice were apparent throughout the competition as some submarines z ipped the length of the pool in fairly straight lines, while others occasionally veered off course, struck a side or bottom of the pool, or surfaced before reac hing the finish line.

The team from Virginia Tech entered a non-propeller craft with the curved bow of a mechanical squid and the tail of a mechanical dolphin. The Virginia Tech s ub set a Guinness World Record speed of 4.110 mph in the one-person non-propelle r driven class, narrowly surpassing the old record in that category set by a UCS D team in 2000.

The 2002 UCSD team switched to a propeller-driven model that they dubbed R 20;Inviscid,” a scientific term for frictionless flow. This year’s t eam modified Inviscid to maintain its strengths while fixing minor flaws. “ ;We’ve tried to keep our submarine simple and robust,” said John McC ague, captain of this year’s UCSD team and a senior in mechanical engineer ing at the Jacobs School. He chose to study mechanical engineering at UCSD partl y out of a desire to participate in the submarine race.

In addition to McCague, the undergraduates on this year’s UCSD team inc luded Patrick Anibaldi, Landon Carlson, Ilya Gavrilyuk, Billy Middleton, and Dan iel Smith. Soren Harrison and Thomas Phillips were senior team members, Ray Sera ydarian was the UCSD faculty advisor, and Tomas Malphus was the senior non-facul ty advisor.

Each team member who entered the water during the 2004 Human Powered Submarin e Contest was required to be dive certified, a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and a full-time student. The annual competition is sponsored by ASME to provide college-level students with an opportunity to appl y what they’ve learned in the classroom to a challenging real-world situat ion. Students must not only design and build their submarines, but they must als o raise roughly $20,000 to $30,000 in outside funding to build their subs from s cratch. They also must learn to work as part of a team in a variety of situation s.

This year’s awards were based on measured speed, innovative design, saf ety consciousness, and construction and operation. In addition to winning the fa stest one-person propeller-driven category, the UCSD team won a second place awa rd for operation of its sub, and third place awards for both safety consciousnes s and sub manufacture. “Everybody is so friendly. There is no cut-throat c ompetition,” said Ray Seraydarian, the UCSD faculty supervisor of this yea r’s UCSD team. “It’s fun for everybody to see how each of the teams has solved problems faced by all of us.”

Media Contacts

Rex Graham
Jacobs School of Engineering