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Local high school wins high category speed first time at ISR

By Lydia Weyrich, NSWCCD Public Affairs intern | July 1, 2019

While the Foundation of Underwater Research and Education’s (FURE) International Human-Powered Submarine Races’ (ISR) participants tend to be college-heavy, three high school teams not only made the cut, but proved to be challenging competitors.

The CTC Engineers team from the Frederick County Career and Technology Center (FCCTC) in Maryland embarked on their first journey to 15th ISR during the week of June 24-28 and ended up ranking as the top high school team throughout the competition.

Held in the Navy’s longest towing basin at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division (NSWCCD), in West Bethesda, Maryland, ISR can prove to be taxing for even the most experienced club teams. The CTC Engineers came with modest expectations for their first go at an ISR, but when they were still maintaining their spot as the fastest high school team the morning of the final day, they began to gain confidence.

The 20-member team spent eight months of the last year modifying and adding to a hull that was donated to FCCTC by Hernando County Public Schools in Florida. Every member, including their teacher and advisor, Philip Arnold, spent two hours each school day and six hours each Sunday working on their submarine, CLS Mako, in preparation for the competition.

“A lot of Sunday’s we would come back dusty and tired, but it was all worth it in the end,” said Jerry Huang, the CTC Engineers pilot.

The team started the races with a more complex two-propeller system, but during the first two days of the races the gears started binding. The complications caused unwanted friction, forcing the team to modify their ship to operate with one propeller.

“We had issues with the contra-rotating propellers, so we simplified it to a single prop, and we are doing well,” Huang said on the final day of the races.

After the switch to the one-propeller system, the submarine experienced far less friction and worked on its first run post-fix.

Having never competed in an ISR before, Huang said the team is proud of how far they came.

“The fact that we could make it here as a high school team for our first year and get 12 runs by yesterday—some college teams haven’t even been able to run—I think we are really proud of that.”

Huang said the team learned a lot about what designs look good in theory versus what works in the water, and he hopes to apply that newfound knowledge to future projects.

“We are learning what looks good on paper, and what actually works—we are hoping to be able to understand that better after the races,” he said.

When the CTC Engineers weren’t preparing their submarine for ISR, they were building a water-remediation system for a school in Adama, Ethiopia. Part of the team traveled to Adama just two weeks prior to the competition to install the system, and made it back just in time to race.