Inside the University of Victoria human-powered submarine Chinook II

June 27, 2019 – Jaryd Middleton, pilot and president of Canada’s University of Victoria’s Submarine Racing Club from British Columbia, Canada, was once a part of a submarine team populated with senior students when he was just entering college. Many of them have now graduated, ushering in a new era of young science, technology, engineering and math team members. Although they are new to each other and their roles within the club, all members have hit the ground running after seizing the opportunity to learn and improve from the team alumni.

This summer marks the first appearance for the team’s “Chinook II” human-powered submarine at the Foundation for Research and Education’s 15th International Human-Powered Submarine Races (ISR), which are being held June 24-28, 2019, at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division in West Bethesda, Maryland. Before assembling Chinook II, however, the team encountered several obstacles. In a year’s time, the team had to accrue sponsors, money and new team members before thinking of a conceptual design. Only then could they begin to research ways to reach top speeds for this year’s submarine time trials.

Unlike the European International Submarine Races, which the Chinook II team participated in last summer in Gosport, England, this year’s ISR challenge focuses on speed instead of a sub’s turning radius and maneuverability.

“This year we made a lot of modifications,” Middleton said. “The last competition we went to was focused on maneuverability, and we tried out some design elements to accommodate what we needed. For example, we installed a nozzle in the back of our sub with the idea that it would duck the water coming off the blades. However, after some analysis we found out that the nozzle was creating as much drag as the whole sub.”

But like last year, there were alterations to be made for ISR.

“We have little set screws on the side of our hull, and we have three different sizes of control services,” Middleton said. “So if we find that we’re not getting enough steering underwater, then we can actually change out the control services. This also allows our pilot to get familiar with the submarine and have some training wheels for control.”

Before teams can run a time trial race, a mandatory wet inspection must be completed. At Carderock, teams are given the opportunity to tinker with their subs to meet the requirements throughout the week, but they, along with other teams, have been learning through trial and error.

“There isn’t a textbook on how to build a human-powered submarine, so a lot of it was coming up with your own ideas on how to do things and doing a lot of practical problem solving,” Middleton said. “Trial and error pretty much.”

Prior to arriving and conducting tests at ISR, the Chinook II team has been testing their vessel at the McKinnon pool inside the University of Victoria. It stretches a length of 80 feet, but the team revealed that Carderock’s 3,200-foot David Taylor Model Basin was a unique facility.

“Often we were unable to test our sub properly because this type of pool is very rare. This competition and the one in Gosport are both on Navy bases so – even at the competition there’s fine tuning and we’re always learning as we go,” Middleton said.

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