ISR 2013 Human Powered Sub Team

posted Oct 13, 2012, 12:13 AM by Mike. Thompson

Welcome to all of our members, distinguished contributors, Alumni, and fellow classmates. We are excited to get started with our new submarine construction phase. The 2013 team has many new enthusiastic members who intend to build on the terrific achievements of the 2011 team who set a new school record of 5.65 knots at the ISR 11 competition. The team plans to make improvements to the propulsion system, and add dynamic stability control. Our goal is to break the 6 knot barrier which is very attainable with optimization in critical areas.

We are currently in the conceptual design phase. Our newest members will gain experience with the construction of a dive trainer built from the old "Dive Dawg Hull". This is re-purposing at its finest. The experience we gain from this exercise will allow our divers to train in an underwater setting, but will also allow the senior members to collect critical data on underwater human power output for use in optimizing the final propulsion design. We will post the team's progress as it develops, so we hope you will follow along on this exciting build.


Mike Thompson (Captain)  

ISR 11 Summary (7/11/11)

posted Jul 11, 2011, 4:36 PM by Alan Orthmann

Before giving a summary of the University of Washington's time at the 11th International Submarine Race, I will briefly describe the team's last day at the races (Day 5).

The team decided to not race Dubs' Sub on Friday, 7/1/11.  We were very pleased with our performance throughout the week, including our record setting performance on Thursday, and opted to stay out of the water.  This allowed more time for struggling teams to get in to the race queue one last time to test out their submarines.  We instead used the day to check out the other submarines at competition, watch some of the racing action, and get our gear packed up.  We also had some rental dive gear to return to a shop in Virginia, so we needed wrapped up at the David Taylor Model Basin pretty early.

Awards were given Friday evening.  Unfortunately our team did not receive any special recognition (we had hoped for the "Smooth Operator Award" with our flawless use of only four divers, but missed out).  This does not change what we accomplished during the races, though.  Two years out from a UW showing that only attempted one race trial and failed to complete that trial, we have made considerable progress.  We are all confident that Dubs' Sub could be optimized for speed, as this was the first time it has ever been tested at full 100m distances. 

To get a good look at record-breaking action, here is a video of the 5.650 knot race:

Also, a few more pictures from the last couple of days of competition:

Here are a few summarizing notes of the competition as a whole:

-28 submarines were present at this year's race.  20 of those boats completed at least one race during the week.
-20 boats (including Dubs' Sub) were propeller driven.  The remaining eight used various non-propeller methods of propulsion.
-There were over 600 people involved with the races as contestants, staff and volunteers.
-One world record was set during the week, several times, by the same submarine. The United States Naval Academy's Mighty Mid, a two-person non-propeller entry, recorded a speed of 5.2 knots on the first day, beating the previously held record of 5.133 knots.  By the end of the week, Mighty Mid was going 6.1 knots.  The boat used two sets of Hobie-style MirageDrive fins (check out this video).  The design was simple and effective.

Now some details about UW's performance at the races:

-Our top speed was 5.650 knots, a new record for the university.  It was achieved during the team's 10th race attempt.  This was accomplished after considerable shifting of ballast weight to account for propeller torque, and modifying the controls system repeatedly to give us the response we needed.
-The team finished 5th amongst the 20 propeller driven submarines, and 6th overall amongst the 28 boats at the races.
-Dubs' Sub was raced 11 total times, and completed 10 of these races.  Only nine of these races qualified for times, as the submarine was too near the surface at the finish line during one of the runs.  The underwater cameras only cover a certain depth range for recording race times.  Had it not been for surfacing 5 meters short of the finish line on the second race attempt, we would have had a perfect racing record.
-We were the smallest team, both amongst divers and surface support, to operate free of borrowed divers during the race. 
-UW was considered the turnaround team this year, bringing one of the fastest, most efficient teams to the races after being non-competitive two years ago.  We were complimented for our team communication, our in-water operations, and our submarines' esthetics.  The Navy rescue divers, who capture the submarines at the finish line, listed UW first amongst submarines that required the most preparation for stopping, due to both our late race acceleration and Dubs' Sub's smooth surface.

The future of the team looks bright.  Our group is accomplished once again, and are ready to pursue more innovative goals.  We are back amongst the top submarines at the races.

I would like to thank all of our sponsors that have generously supported our pursuits throughout the year:

Autohound Collision Center
The Boeing Company
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering
Global Diving and Salvage
Janicki Industries
Kvichak Marine Industries
Lighthouse Diving Center

Aerospace Defense, Inc.
Breedt Production Tooling and Design
Click Bond, Inc.
National Instruments
TAP Plastics

A few individuals deserve special thanks for their continued support of the team:

Bruce Adee
Jed Brich
April Johnson
Jason Kurtz
Steve Marks
Jim Sisley
Kevin Vezanni

This is only a handful of people that made this year's submarine possible.  I also want to personally thank every current and former member of UW HPS that contributed to the record-breaking submarine.  The amount of time, energy, commitment, and enthusiasm exhibited by this group is evident in this year's performance.

Thank you for following us during ISR 11!  Please send any questions, comments, etc., to 

ISR Day 4 (6/30/11)

posted Jun 30, 2011, 6:10 PM by Alan Orthmann   [ updated Jun 30, 2011, 7:41 PM ]

Well...I think this will go down as the best day of the competition, and perhaps in UW History?...

We left off with the end of Day 3, plagued by a submarine crash at the finish line.  It put a damper on the team's spirits, even though we had broken 5 knots just an hour or so prior.  A detail that was not noted in our last post was a broken part of our main hatch latch.  After working to repair the hatch after returning to the hotel, it was determined that the design would have to be designed to make it more reliable.  A trip was made to Home Depot to pick up the proper tools and material (and we thought we had brought everything!), and it was planned to repair the hatch properly in the morning.  The controls system also awaited fixing. 

We arrived on base bright and early again this morning at 7:30am, and got an early start on the work required to race again.  The lower rudder shaft was bent back to its original condition (therefore preventing us from scuffing up another rudder paint job on our backups), and we began steadily working on the latch modification.  As mentioned before, we began shifting weights in the submarine to account for the propeller torque yesterday.  After seven race attempts, it became apparent that our biggest limitation to speed was how much we could torque the submarine and still proceed at an even keel.  The problem is that we had already shifted all of our ballast weight from port to starboard.  As true engineers in nerd form, we whipped out our calculators and came up with a solution.  If we wanted to move more weight around, we would have to make the submarine lighter.

Fortunately, the submarine has an inherent variable ballast: the pilot's scuba tank.  If we raced with less air, we could add more weight to the submarine.  A scuba tank is full at 3000 psi, and is becomes unsafe at 2000 psi.  So our thought was: if we bleed a tank to 2000 psi, how much steel ballast weight could we add to the starboard side? Well it turns out that gives us the chance to add two of our 1 lb steel ballast plates, and actually come out slightly positive in buoyancy.  So we ran the submarine's tank down to 2000, and added two weights.  We also found that taking the tank down to 1500 psi would allow the addition of one more steel plate (just planning ahead, of course).

With the controls, latch, and submarine ballast all adjusted, Dubs' Sub was ready for another day of racing.  The day looked ready to be our day at the races.  The dive team entered the water at 10:00am, to find the David Taylor Model Basin packed with submarines. Some were racing, some were still working to get their submarines operational.  We quickly got our chance to come to the start line, and lock and load.  By this time, the race setup for Dubs' Sub was like clockwork.  The newly developed list from the ballast weight was a bit unnerving.  When we allowed the submarine to sit in equilibrium at the surface, it listed nearly 45 degrees to starboard; not the sort of submarine you want to get into to race.  We hoped it would pay off during racing though.

When given the signal to "GO GO GO" at the start line, the pilot began cranking at a steady, hard pace.  The submarine still wanted to list starboard, so the pilot's effort increased even more.  Our ballasting fix was forcing our pilot to work harder right at the very beginning of the race! Controls were easy to handle with the newly established racing stability, and Dubs' Sub quickly advanced to the 45-55 meter time gate.  At this point, the pilot ramped up his exertion to 100%.  The race became strenuous as the submarine entered the final third of the course, and the pilot was sure this would surpass the previous attempts.

Well, of course, this race couldn't go THAT WELL. At about the 80th meter, both of the pilot's cycling shoes unclipped from the cranks simultaneously, and the submarine went in to a coast.  The pilot immediately pointed the elevators upward in hope to avoid another bottom crash.  Sure enough, the quick input to the elevator linkages caused a small component of the elevator control to break, leaving the submarine completely in the hands of its due course.  Luckily, the submarine slid across the finish line, just before surfacing.  Had the combination foot release/linkage failure occurred any earlier in the race, the submarine would have drifted to the tank bottom, waiting for rescue from the Navy divers.  It was safely recovered at the surface though, and the pilot was removed.

What seemed to be the perfect run ended with a decelerating drift across the finish line.  Dubs' Sub had to exit the water before racing again to make repairs, but did not want to leave the racing queue.  So we quickly exited the basin without feeling the need to tell the race coordinator we might not return in time for our next race.  We brought our boat out of the water, and quickly inspected the damage.  It was claimed by a team member the previous day that the controls' ball linkages had MAYBE two to three more runs in them.  That was four runs ago.  In preparation for such an event, though, we had been working on more durable aluminum linkages to replace the existing nylon parts.  The parts were switched out.  At the same time, the crank clip-ons were inspected, and adjusted to put a tighter fit on the cycling shoes.  Within an hour, the submarine was ready to return to the water.  Just before getting back in, we discovered that our middle portion of the previous run had clocked a speed of 5.27 knots.  This would be fantastic news, but the submarine had crossed the finish line out side of the timing camera's view, and the race was ruled incomplete!  The next race attempt would have to proceed without flaw.

Before we got in the water, we wanted to give ourselves a little extra boost.  The submarine tank's pressure had decreased to 1800 psi, and it was time to add one last steel ballast weight to the starboard side.  It would be up to the pilot now to pedal hard enough to keep the submarine upright and controllable.

At noon, Dubs' Sub and its support diver crew entered the basin with determination.  So many submarines were in the queue for racing, that we returned just as our name was being called to standby for racing.  We were then told to lock and load, and were more ready to race than ever.

At depth, the adjustments to the clip-on shoes were checked to ensure the pilot could safely remove himself from the submarine if necessary.  The submarine was also positioned about 10 feet back to provide a slightly longer run up to the 100 meter course. A team diver returned to the surface to inform the race coordinator that "Dubs' Sub is ready to race!" The underwater signal was given, and the pilot started pedaling furiously from the start.  The submarine passed over the start line at an unprecedented speed, and worked to approach the time gate.  As a quick sidenote, the course is marked by an underwater lighted strip.  The start and finish line, and the start and end of the time gates are indicated by light strips going left and right from the course center lights.  About 15 meters prior to the first end of the time gate, another light strip goes right from the course center lights.  As the diver passed over this other line, he mistook it for the first end of the time gate, and ramped up his maximum exertion early.  He quickly realized his mistake (and fortune) when actually reaching the time gate.  By the team he entered the last 45 meters, Dubs' Sub was blazing through the water.  A straight course was held, and the pilot kept pedaling until he was sure the entire submarine length crossed the finish line.  There was excitement in the pilot, amongst the surface support crew, and amongst UW's support divers back at the start line.  We recovered the submarine from the water, exited through the drydock, and awaited the release of recent performances.

During that run, Dubs' Sub clocked a velocity of 5.650 knots.  Let's say that again, because it just sounds so good. 5.650 knots.  This smashes the old UW top speed by 1/2 a knot!...which is greater than it sounds...

Two years following an ISR in which UW only attempted, and aborted, one race, we set the new school record for speed!

Given this success, it was time to get another diver some good practice in the submarine.  The dive crew geared back up, with a different member in cycling shoes.  The new pilot had not once entered the submarine before today, so there was a new nervousness about the fate of Dubs' Sub.  The team requested an area in the tank to test the new pilot, and check that he could pedal comfortably and control the rudders and elevators.  The new pilot has much larger feet than the other, and requires larger clip-on shoes.  Sure enough though, the pilot accommodated for the small submarine clearances, and could produce a smooth cycling cadence.  Once buoyancy was double checked with a new diver. 

The crew immediately requested to be put in to the race queue, and was back at the start line 30 minutes later.  The new pilot was given the signal to go, and began pedaling rapidly.  He had been instructed to proceed cautiously to ensure that the course could be navigated safely, but adrenaline must have kicked in.  The dive crew watched the submarine disappeared into the basin murk quickly. 

By the time the dive crew surfaced, Dubs' Sub had already completed another race, and behind new legs!  The pilot returned to simply say "That was really sketchy."  Sketchy or not, we completed another race successfully.  Dubs' Sub has now reached the finish line in 9 of its 10 races; a record that may only be rivaled by the United States Naval Academy (to be subtle, they are pretty good at what they do, breaking and re-breaking world records each day we've been here).  We also put a second pilot in the water, and have started building crucial experience for the next UW team.

We will move forward tomorrow morning with giving the pilot another couple of runs, and hopefully increase his speed.  Racing wraps up at 3:00pm, and we hope to have a calmer, celebratory day at Carderock.  For everyone that stuck around for this entire post, I apologize for its length. We are just very excited!

There should be some great race pictures and hopefully a video or two available tomorrow.  Thanks for tuning in!

Also, please forgive any typos or grammatical errors; I have spent a lot of time underwater this week.

ISR 11 Day 3 (6/29/11)

posted Jun 29, 2011, 4:35 PM by Alan Orthmann   [ updated Jun 30, 2011, 6:06 PM ]

The third day of ISR started with a pleasant surprise.  There was an error in speed recordings from the previous day, and we actually turned in 3.41 knots during one of our runs.  So the uphill battle of increasing velocity got a major boost before we even started racing.  Prior to the basin opening for activity, Dubs' Sub was selected to do some photograph lighting tests to prepare for the Friday group photoshoot (I took a photo or two as well).  We then immediately wheeled the submarine into the basin entry queue, and entered the water at 8:30am.  This gave us the opportunity to be the first racing submarine of the day!

Improvements to the boat made at the end of Day 2 proved crucial for racing today.  The first run clocked a speed of just over 4 knots.  The controls system was considerably more responsive, making course adjustments nearly effortless.  The movement of ballast weights gave the submarine a natural roll to starboard.  Once heavy pedaling started during the race, though, the propeller torque brought the submarine to equilibrium in an upright state.

The team was thrilled with the performance, and remained in the queue.  By noon, we finished all three of our race attempts.  The final two races of the morning posted speeds of 4.49 and 4.69 knots, respectively.  Our pilot was quickly becoming comfortable with the controls and was increasing his exertion with each race.  The team left the basin for lunch, and returned shortly to give the course another go.

On the fifth run of the day, there was a great deal of focus of pushing the speed to a safe limit.  The pilot gradually ramped speed until he reached the first time gate, at which point exertion was rapidly increased.  The final 45 meters had the pilot giving full exertion, while still maintaining a steady course.  Dubs' Sub crossed the finish line flying, and nearly escaped the Navy rescue divers once again.  We received our speed for the race, and clocked in at 5.076 knots. This makes Dubs' Sub the quickest UW submarine in eight years, and 2nd fastest overall.

The racing queue underwent significant delays at this point, with a multitude of submarines aborting their race attempts, and difficulties in submarine loading at the starting line.  Dubs' Sub was given one more opportunity to race at 4:30pm.  The dive crew set the submarine up at the start line, and notified the race coordinator that Dubs' Sub was ready to race.  There was a delay in starting, though, apparently due to a previously aborted race before Dubs' Sub.  While our pilot was locked in the submarine at depth, he experienced mask flooding (water entering the scuba mask), but decided to wait and get the signal to begin the trial.  It would be the team's last chance to be on the course that day, and the team wanted to improve on its previous mark.  Despite blurred vision, the pilot navigated the submarine through the first 45 meters, and through the time gate at a new record speed for this year's team.  In the final 45 meters, it became overwhelmingly difficult to gauge depth through the flooded mask, and the submarine began veering off course.  Dubs' Sub crossed the finish line just before skidding on the basin floor.

Some minor damage was experienced during the crash.  The underside paint experienced minor scuffing, and the lower control rudder post was bent upon impact.  The damage was minor, though, and mostly cosmetic.  The rudder will be worked on to still perform, but two replacement lower rudders were manufactured for just such an event.  The completed race, though, made Dubs' Sub 6 of 7 for finishing races over the first three days of ISR.  We have been very pleased with our ability to operate as a team.  Our four divers and two surface personnel comprise the smallest team to be operating free of assistance from other teams' members. 

Adjustments to systems will be made tomorrow morning, and we will then look to get back in the water and pick up on our success of day 3.  It is also our hope that we will switch out pilots for the first time, and put someone else in front of the propeller.

ISR 11 Day 2 (6/28/11)

posted Jun 28, 2011, 7:25 PM by Alan Orthmann   [ updated Jun 28, 2011, 8:28 PM ]

The second day of races started off quickly.  Our team arrived on base at 7:20am to prep our submarine for entry in to the basin.  After a lengthy briefing with all team leads, submarines were cleared to enter the basin for racing and in-water inspections.  Dubs' Sub was the third boat to make it into the race area.  After being called to the line to lock and load, the submarine was underway on the course.  Due to a miscommunication regarding our team's race setup procedure, the submarine started the course at an uneven trim, narrowly avoiding a bottom pool crash.  The submarine's control fins soon brought the submarine back to the race track, and was again underway.

To begin improving on our performance, the pilot exerted greater effort during the 0-45 meter zone.  The increased exertion caused an unbalanced torque in the submarine, though, and the hull began to twist.  This made controlling the submarine very difficult.  Nonetheless the submarine continued on course through the time gate, and on to the final leg of the course.  At the 70 meter point, controlling the submarine became too difficult, and it began to ascend.  Just 10 meters shy of the finish line, Dubs' Sub surfaced, thus disqualifying the race attempt.

A considerable amount was learned during the second race, and the team was eager to get back in the water.  In order to offset the rolling behavior of the submarine, the team shifted ballast weight from the port to starboard side, hopefully offsetting the net moment.  The submarine was once again called to lock and load, and the team returned it to the start line.  The matter of race setup was resolved, and the pilot set the submarine on a strong course.  Dubs' Sub glided through the time gate, and onto the finish line.  This placed Dubs' Sub in the elite group of submarines to finish multiple races thus far at the competition.

Once again, the top speed achieved was low at 3.11 knots.  The dive team and submarine exited the basin to break for lunch.  It was at this time that the manufacturing lead, Ryan Faulkner, discovered several parts of the controls system that were rapidly wearing out.  It was decided that, for the submarine to safely race the remainder of the week, a quick overhaul of the controls linkages would have to be conducted.  Racing Dubs' Sub for the remainder of the day would not occur.  After continuous work all afternoon in 92 deg F heat, the controls system was back in order, and running much smoother than before.  We finished the day prepared to jump right back in the water in the morning.

Because the net torque from the propeller has continued to be a problem at higher rpms and increases in rate, we will adjust ballast weight quickly before entering the water tomorrow.  The ballasting system is simple to adjust, by moving 1 lb steel plates along several velcro pads, fixing the plates in place.  All weights on the port side of the submarine will be shifted to the same longitudinal location on the starboard side.  This should greatly improve the submarine's heel from center while in motion.

Once control can be better maintained at high speeds, Dubs' Sub will work to achieve speeds nearing 4.0 knots.  We are very excited about the next three days at the ISR, and hope our early success continues to grow.

Something fun to consider: the submarine's controls seem to be designed perfectly for 100 meter races.  Each time the pilot has approached the finish line, he has been slightly off course, and then manages to quickly change direction toward track center.  The submarine has very nearly escaped the Navy rescue divers receiving submarines at the finish line, in each of our three race attempts.

On a note aside from racing, the team has received innumerous compliments on our control fins, propeller blades, hull finishing, and paint job (especially the paint job; it looks like we are representing the UW well!).  We may have the most esthetically crafted submarine this year!

Photos have been added to the race album via this link.

ISR 11 Day 1 (6/27/11)

posted Jun 27, 2011, 8:11 PM by Alan Orthmann   [ updated Jun 30, 2011, 6:10 PM ]

Today UW HPS completed their first day at the 11th International Submarine Race! 

The team arrived on Sunday, June 26th at the Carderock Surface Warfare Center for site setup and submarine/diver checkoff.  Despite last minute airplane swap-outs, eight bags of lost luggage (eventually reacquired with a great deal of effort), damaging TSA inspections, and some equipment difficulties, the team was very successful during the staging day. We were able get all divers approved for water operations, all diving gear inspected and checked off, and, most importantly, successfully pass the submarine dry safety inspection for Dubs' Sub.  This put us in the perfect position to get in to the water first thing Monday Morning.

We began submarine setup at 7:30am (EST) this morning, to prepare for the in water safety inspection.  This inspection is mandatory before any team can begin time trials.  At 11:00am, Dubs' Sub entered the David Taylor Model Basin to test our emergency pop-up buoy, emergency diver release, and did a final check on the submarine's buoyancy and trim.  We passed all inspections, and were approved for racing.  The submarine was removed from the water to make some system adjustments, and swap out components.  After making a 20-minute presentation to the competition judges at 2:00pm, the submarine was put in queue to begin racing.

After minor delays in the progress of the queue, Dubs' Sub entered the water for the second time today at 4:00pm.  After waiting in standby, our team was placed on deck as the last submarine to attempt a race for the day.  We were very fortunate to sneak in, as several teams were working to complete their wet inspection at this time.  Dubs' Sub was finally called to lock and load at 4:45pm, and promptly set up at the start line.  After receiving the signal to "GO GO GO," our pilot began navigating the 100 meter course.  Dubs' Sub proceeded cautiously through the timing window at 45-55 meters, and gained velocity through the finish line!

The submarine clocked a humble speed of 3.03 knots through the timing window, with the diver finishing calm and confident with the submarine's controls.  Submarine propelling was at minor exertion, so it is expected the submarine will gain considerable momentum throughout the week.

During the first day of action, Dubs' Sub was one of only six teams to successfully complete the course.  There are 28 teams present at the race this year.  The next four days of competition are devoted cranking out as many trials and upping our pilot exertion with each race.  Check back in and we will keep everyone posted with our progress!

Also please check this link to view photos tracking the team's work at ISR 11.  The first three photos are during our submarine setup prior to entering the water for racing.

New and renewed sponsors!

posted Sep 9, 2010, 9:07 PM by Alan Orthmann

Over the summer UW Sub has picked up two new sponsors, and renewed with another!

Global Diving and Salvage has agreed to sponsor the team once again, helping get our team back to the ISRs.

Kvichak Marine Industries recently supplied the team with a large amount of new aluminum extrusion and plate. Kvichak has been extremely helpful, and the Sub Team is excited to see how else we can work with Kvichak in the future.

Click Bond Inc. has donated a large supply of it's marine grade, multi-purpose fasteners for use in our submarine. These materials will be extremely helpful in mounting of systems and equipment to the interior of the Sub Hull.

The entire team is very thankful for the recent in-flow of support. The fall work period should now get off to an excellent start!


posted Mar 5, 2010, 10:27 PM by Alan Orthmann

A new section has been added to the site: donations. This has a full listing of equipment, material, services etc. that could be very useful contributions from interested sponsors. If you are part of a company looking to get involved with such a project, this is a great place to see how you can contribute!

SNAME Northwest

posted Jan 27, 2010, 1:34 PM by Alan Orthmann

The Sub Team attended the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers annual Northwest Section student meeting. The meeting was at a new location, in Bellingham, WA. We made a presentation of our design plans, and were fortunate enough to meet Western Washington University's and University of British Columbia's submarine teams!
Although there isn't an official race this year, the three teams are considering the possibility of meeting for an informal race in the summer!
We also toured All American Marine's manufacturing facility, and learned about the high-speed transportation vessels they produce. We may have a new provider of scrap aluminum!


posted Dec 22, 2009, 4:24 PM by Alan Orthmann   [ updated Dec 26, 2009, 12:17 PM ]

This is the new University of Washington HPS Team website. Our organization is hoping to improve our team coordination and interaction with sponsors, competitors, and anyone interested in what we do! The site is under construction, so please be patient with any bugs and flaws that you might come across!

Alan J Orthmann

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