Down by the South Coast of England, a group of students from the University of Southampton came together to create a human-powered submarine that fought its way to the 15th International Human-Powered Submarine Races (ISR) June 24-28. The Foundation of Underwater Research and Education (FURE) hosts the biennial event at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division’s David Taylor Model Basin in West Bethesda, Maryland.
An American student, Adam Studebaker, created the British school’s first submarine society after drawing inspiration from the University of Michigan’s submarine club while on a college tour.
“Our society was inspired by the University of Michigan,” Studebaker said. “When I was looking for universities, I saw the University of Michigan’s workshop and learned about the human powered-submarine races. So in my second year, I decided to start up this society for the University of Southampton.”
Studebaker explained that the society has faced its fair share of challenges, especially with budgetary constraints, but has always managed to make ends meet in time for competitions.
“Money was tight, but one of our team leaders designed a really hydrodynamic hull,” said Maria Stagno Navarra, president of the society. “We conducted a computational fluid dynamics analysis and it came out with a low drag coefficient, which was perfect. Unfortunately, we didn’t account for people not being able to manufacture the nose cone because it was too big or too expensive.”
In the end, the team decided to use a flat packable nose cone instead.
The team’s sub, Tempest, has attended three ISR events in the past, but faced their toughest challenge yet at this summer’s races. The one-man propeller submarine was shipped in advanced and arrived in the United States three weeks before the ISR event was set to begin. While many teams would have felt relieved that their sub arrived, the British team’s Tempest was still an unfinished product.
Gareth Caine, the team’s transmissions co-lead, revealed there was a lot of stress involved in getting their submarine to be operational, but emphasized that the team remained in high spirits throughout the week-long races.
“The team invented, tested and built the entire control system on Tuesday at Carderock,” Caine said. “Home depot should maybe hire us.”
Although the team did not pass their wet inspection test until the penultimate day of the races, they remained upbeat and proud of their extraordinary turnaround.
“We are all really proud of what we have accomplished here at these races,” pilot Oliver Heilmann said. “To turnaround an incomplete submarine and get it in the water for a time trial run was not easy, but we did it,” said Heilmann.
Tempest will make its next appearance at the European International Submarine Races in Gosport, England, next summer.