Sinking, literally, before moving forward

Monday, January 28, 2019

Sinking, literally, before moving forward

The Faculty’s Sedra Student Design Centre also provides a safe environment to experiment and take risks. Waterloo’s three-year-old Submarine Racing Team can attest to that.

It was in Maryland last year that members experienced the true meaning of the team’s tagline: Everything is simple, until you go underwater.

After passing the design report and safety inspection stages of the International Submarine Race, Waterloo’s team, known as WatSub, took to the water to compete in the race portion of the competition. That’s when, in the words of team lead Sasha Hall, everything “kind of completely flopped.”

WatSub’s entry, known as Bolt, was given several opportunities to compete in the race but had difficulty just making it past the starting line in the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center’s testing facility in Bethesda.

“The most promising attempt was when we had our pilot moving ahead, but then the air he was exhaling got trapped within the submarine,” says Hall, a fourth-year mechatronics engineering student. “The nose then started pointing upwards, which shot the diver towards the surface instead of straight ahead.”

During its final opportunity, the pedal-powered submarine did make it past the starting line — albeit barely — but then sank to the bottom of the testing facility and stayed there.

It was the second year of discouraging race results for the WatSub team. In 2016, a combination of technical and logistical errors contributed to a dead-last finish at the race held in Gosport, England.

Despite the team’s poor performance two years in a row, WatSub members returned to Waterloo last year eager to start working on a brand-new design for their next submarine. The students not only learned from the difficulties they encountered but also what worked for other teams in the competition.

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