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Skookumchuck races at Carderock

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Story by Benjamin McKnight III on 06/27/2019
A road trip from British Columbia, Canada, to Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division planned on Google Maps takes roughly 44 hours. University of British Columbia's submarine team SUBC did not let the length of a cross-country drive deter them from competing in the 2019 International Human-Powered Submarine Races.

SUBC is one of eight international teams competing this year and a regular participant in the races. Racing for SUBC is Skookumchuck, their submarine named as a tribute to British Columbia's indigenous language Chinook Jargon, translating to "white water" or "rapids." Their submarine won't be racing through rapids, but rather the David Taylor Model Basin as they hope to come out victorious in the event.

Allysia Lam is a first time competitor for SUBC, being drawn in by the prospect of getting more opportunities to practically apply what she is learning in her mechanical engineering program.

"I really liked the idea of a submarine, and I have a scuba diving certification, so it seemed like I would get to build a super cool thing and also get a bunch of diving buddies," Lam said.

That super cool thing is noticeably larger than the submarine SUBC raced in 2017. ISR veteran Shelby Quiring said that their last vessel was one of the smallest submarines in that competition, so this year the team made one that would allow them to shuffle through multiple pilots if need be.

Making Skookumchuck larger also alleviated the space constraints for the equipment inside that they dealt with in their previous competition.

"We did a lot of redesign and iteration based on what we learned at the last competition, and we were able to have a system that functions much better," Quiring said. "Everything has to be okay to go underwater, so a lot of components that you would regularly buy off the shelf that contains anything that corrodes are a no-go."

To get to Carderock, SUBC spent four days on the road. University of Victoria, another team in the competition, faced a similar dilemma with their submarine transport, so the two schools teamed up to make the trek from the Northwest.
"It's a bit of a journey but it was definitely worth it to be here," Quiring said. "The drive was a lot of fun, a little chaotic."

"And a lot of music," Lam said.

A win for SUBC would be the icing on the cake of a lengthy process, but one of the team's major focuses is building a strong bond among the team through accomplishments and adversity. They also plan to glean learning points from the results from the other teams' efforts as the week progresses.

"The other teams have all the same problems as us, and we all still have very different submarines," Lam said. "It's very interesting to ask them about their design process and see what kind of deviations they made from ours."


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