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Student engineers submerged in contest

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Postby TMSmalley » Fri Jul 21, 2006 1:24 pm

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Sub engineers off to the races

By: QUINN EASTMAN - Staff Writer

SAN MARCOS ---- Budding submarine engineers from across North America and Europe gathered at Cal State San Marcos on Wednesday for the opening of the 2006 Human Powered Submarine Contest.

Three and a half days of racing and design competition, organized by the San Diego chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, begin today at the Offshore Model Basin in western Escondido.

Teams from a dozen colleges and universities, including teams from British Columbia, Montreal and the Netherlands are competing in the growing event, which takes place biannually.


The submarines are designed to be driven by either one or two people. They can be propeller-driven, often by a bicycle mechanism, or nonpropeller driven, said Nip Shah, the chair of the event and an engineer at Hamilton Sundstrand.

The UC San Diego team had success in the 2004 competition with a human-attached fin, he noted.

"Not everything has to be engineered in the traditional way," he said.

The drivers use scuba equipment, including thousands of dollars in donated oxygen tanks. Underwater cameras will videotape the submarines and measure their speed through a defined area of a private research pool in Escondido.

A panel of judges, top engineers from the Navy and private industry members will judge the teams on their use of materials, construction and safety.

"They look for innovation and team effort as well as performance," Shah said.

On Wednesday afternoon, the teams began to present their designs after hearing from retired Navy Capt. Bert Marsh.

He sought to inspire the group with his description of the $60 million salvage of the Ehime Maru, a Japanese fishing training ship that sank to a depth of 2,000 feet after being hit by a U.S. submarine near Hawaii in 2001.

"The ocean is a great place for a career," he said.

The salvage effort, aimed at recovering the remains of crew members and personal effects, was important in maintaining U.S.-Japanese relations, Marsh said.

The team from the University of British Columbia, all seniors, said they were new to the event personally, but had a history to live up to because of their predecessors' first-place ranking in 2002. They described how they designed a hull shape that would fit the movements made by the diver and minimize water drag.

"We had a lot of re-engineering to do because we changed our submarine from two to one person," said Nicholas Comyn, a mechanical engineering student.

The contest will be open to the public at 578 Enterprise St. in Escondido. Competition trials last from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

An awards presentation is scheduled to close the competition at 2 p.m. Sunday.


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Tim Smalley
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