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Making Moves at the 2017 International Submarine Race

The University of Miami has signed up and will be participating in the International Submarine Race (ISR) for the first time in 20 years!

In the ISR, teams of students develop one- or two-person human-powered submarines, compete with one another, stimulate interest, and increase public awareness of the challenges people face in working in and exploring the ocean depths.

Human-powered submarine races began in the 1980s when Henry A. “Hap” Perry’s lifelong interest in underwater vehicles led to the concept of submarine races. At first, a strip of water near the beach in Singer Island, Florida, was used, but after three races with successive weather complications and a change in sponsorship, the venue was moved to the controlled environment of the U.S. Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Carderock Division, David Taylor Model Basin in Maryland, where it continues to be held to this day.

The last time University of Miami participated in the ISR was in 1997, when “Magnum Pi” finished in fifth place in the two-person, propeller-driven section. This time around, Michael Tenuta, Joi Wu and Zuri McFarlane — leaders of the University of Miami’s 2017 team —, hope to do a lot better.

“The ISR has evolved a lot since the last time our school entered,” said Michael. “All of the speed records have been set after 2007; however, we believe we can be in the top five again, even with the stronger competition. We have a robust team and an opportunity as a new competitor to be creative with how we approach this challenge. We have seen what other teams have done in the past and will not only build off what they have done, but exceed their performance using the unique skills that we have learned at UM.”

Consisting of mainly engineers, the team of undergraduate students has to raise funds for, design and build the one-person submarine before June 25, 2017. “The biggest challenge we face is the organization of everyone,” explained Michael. They divided the team of 15 persons into five more-specific teams: design, hull, propulsion, guidance system and fundraising.

To Joi, the uncertainty of what to expect poses the greatest difficulty for this project. The process of creating a small subsea vehicle from scratch provides profound lessons that can only be learned from the trials and errors of operating an “optimized design.”

These competitions contribute to oceanic engineering by improving the efficiency of hydrodynamics, propulsion and life support of underwater vehicles, which are growing in importance as more and more of today’s global economies rely on a variety of underwater tasks and operations: fish stock assessment, seafloor and habitat exploration, the inspections of pipelines or other structures, etc.

More to come.

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