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Two Florida schools faced a hurricane in preparation for Maryland submarine races

By Brooke Marquardt, NSWCCD Pubic Affairs | July 1, 2019

Not even a hurricane could stop some Gulf Coast High School students from returning to the 2019 International Human-Powered Submarine Races (ISR) at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division. Two teams came from Florida under Gulf Coast State College (GCSC) affiliation: Engineering-Minded People and the GCSC Sub Club. Engineering-Minded People is a club at the Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Florida, and the GCSC Sub Club is from the Gulf Coast High School in Naples, Florida.

For the past year, these two clubs have shared a budget and materials while building two submarines in preparation for the 2019 ISR. The college team started with 10 people and now has only two, so the clubs share support divers, as well. This is the high school team’s second time at ISR and their submarine, Son of Trigonus, is an improvement on their last sub, Trigonus. The college team submarine’s name is Commodore, their school mascot.

“We looked at previous races and saw the different designs people were doing and hydrofoil seemed to be the most successful. Since it had already been tested, we went with that and improved on it,” said Robert Copsey, a junior studying mechanical engineering at GCSC.

When the GCSC Sub Club decided that they wanted to return to the ISR, they enlisted the help of the Engineering-Minded People club about a year out from the race. This was the first year that the Engineering-Minded People club had a submarine at ISR. When the clubs started working together, they had about a year to build on an old submarine to create a new one, but then Hurricane Michael hit and took away almost three months of work, leaving the teams about eight months to pull off the designs.

The original Trigonus was made up of corrugated plastics and fishing line, but because of the octagonal shape, it kept collapsing. The GCSC Sub Club then used additive manufacturing and carbon fiber to design the Son of Trigonus with a budget of just under $400.

“Because this event allows high school and college students, it gives them an opportunity to do the hands-on engineering work rather than just the hypothetical. Allowing this age range to do an event like this is a good breeding ground for new engineers,” Copsey said.

“The best part about this event is that we know we’re going to be faster than last year, and we’ll get to make more attempts. Last year we were only able to make one attempt to make it across the finish line,” said Jayden Bernard, recent graduate of Gulf State High School.

Another recent graduate, Mia Evans, agreed and added, “It’s an experience like no other. Hardly anyone gets to say they’ve built a submarine, and now I’m dive-certified and can go scuba diving whenever I want.”