Bath University Represent the UK at European International Submarine Races

Tue, 12 June 2012

The University of Bath is fielding an enthusiastic team of students who have designed, built and hope to pilot their human-powered submarine to victory in the inaugural European International Submarine Races (eISR), sponsored by IMarEST amongst others, competing against three teams from the USA and two from Canada later this month.

The races will take place at 25-29 June in Europe’s largest freshwater tank - QinetiQ’s Ocean Basin at Gosport, England. The other teams come from the Ecole Polytechniqiue de Montreal; Ecole de Technologie Superieure, Quebec; University of Michigan; Texas A&M and Florida Atlantic University. This is the first time such races have taken place outside the USA, where the University of Bath has built up a track record having competed there three times.

The over-riding reason for the six young men and two women joining Bath’s team was to put theoretical knowledge to good practice. Seven of the team have studied Mechanical Engineering, and the eighth has studied Aerospace Engineering – all have undertaken final year projects (or a Master’s research project) that have prepared them well for key roles in the races.

Meet the team
Oli Fairfax (23), from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, is Team Leader and Project Manager. His final year project saw him designing the new control system for the University of Bath’s ‘Minerva’ – the craft competing in the races – comprising a two axis electronic finger joystick, and a new gearbox and motors at the stern.

“When he says ‘motors’, he’s referring only to the control system. The main propulsion power is all in the pilot’s legs, for these submarines are all pedalled under water by a pilot wearing SCUBA gear, it is hard, hard work,” says Race Director, Dr William Megill, FIMarEST, Director of the Ocean Technologies Lab, in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Bath.

Oli explains: “I wanted a design and build project and thought that designing part of the human-powered submarine as part of a team would indeed be challenging and fun, with the reward of seeing the design work in a race in the summer.” In addition to his Project manager role, he is responsible for the yaw control system, including the joystick gearbox at the stern, handle and safety dead-man’s handle; and has helped with the design of the contra-rotating propeller hubs.

Deputy Team Leader Tim Vickers (22) originally from Oxford and now Aberdeen, is the odd-man-out in that he has been studying Aerospace Engineering. His interest in designing a propeller, which he did as part of his final year project, was his reason for joining the team: “the idea of building and racing something was more attractive to me than doing a normal individual university project”, he explains.

Press contact Jenny Blowers (23), who is originally from Southampton but has spent time in Argentina, USA and Singapore - going to high school in Houston, Texas - is one of two girls on the team. Her final year project was on the manoeuvrability of a robotic submarine that mimics an Amazonian knifefish; and having project managed a group business and design project in 2011 as part of the Bath University Racing Submarine Team (BURST) group to produce an autonomous submarine, she was keen to join the team to see a practical application to the design and engineering she had learned at university. She has worked on producing a nose cone and fairings, as well as machining various parts for the submarine.

The other female team member is Emma Shavick (23) from London who, for her final year project, investigated the human factors affecting the human-powered submarine. She worked with Tim Vickers to design and build a rig which allowed them to test the input leg power, pedalling speed and thrust produced by their propeller – she put a whole group of students through their paces, pedalling at a variety of speeds and at different depths underwater.

Designed for three different pilots
Jenny is one of the three possible pilots, with ‘Minerva’ designed to fit her and the two main pilots Daniel Knight (23) and Jonathan Boustred (23) – “I’m sure we will all be giving it a go before the race though,“ she says.

Daniel grew up in Guernsey and joined the team “as it offered the opportunity to employ a much wider range of engineering skills and principles than other projects. Being able to see the finished product of the work undertaken during design was an added incentive.” His final year project was to design, manufacture and test a prototype for a new biomimetic propulsion unit based on the undulating fin of the ronquil (a fish). His team role, in addition to being a pilot, was the design and manufacture of part of the new gear box to transfer power from the pilot to the contra rotating propeller.

Jonathan, from London, worked on the transmission for a biomimetic undulating fin propulsion unit for the submarine as his final year project; and says that since taking part in the project he has developed a greater interest in marine engineering. He is another who has worked on the development of the gearbox for the contra-rotating propeller.

And two more make eight!
The two final team members are Hemaang Sharma (22) and Adam Falshaw (23). Hemaang was born and raised in India and chose to specialise in system modelling, motion control and hydraulics disciplines during his final year – his part in the team was to design a water-hydraulic power transmission system for pitching-heaving foil based propulsion. “In previous years I relished working in group-based design engineering tasks that are central to Bath Uni’s curriculum,” he explains. “So when the opportunity arose to pursue my Master’s research project in the same fashion, I signed up immediately!”

Adam is from Surrey, and joined the submarine team “because I’ve always liked boats,” he says. “Human-powered submarines present a lot of unique, fully-rounded engineering challenges. My favourite thing about the submarine team is that we actually build and compete with our design, which is not something every student is lucky enough to do.” Adam is looking forward to starting a job in Dorset with Atlas Elektronik (coincidentally one of the sponsors of the eISR) in July, working on marine defence systems. .

“Adam is typical of this group, they are real go-getters,” says William Megill. “It has been a great joy watching their enthusiasm for the project unfold, and it is perhaps not by chance that these highly competent and competitive people have done well as far as post-university careers go. Two are going on to marine engineering roles at BP, one to McLaren Automotive, another to Proctor and Gamble; and the others also have a clear picture of what they aim to do; they will certainly be well placed to take advantage of the Graduate Fair and Underwater Technology Master Classes that will be held at the eISR on 27 June.”


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