Human powered sub success for Bath students

The University of Bath’s human powered submarine team was named the highest ranked UK team at an international competition

BURST (Bath University Racing Submarine Team) is made up of students from the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering who each year design and build a human powered submarine, to compete at different competitions around the world.

The 13th International Submarine Race (ISR) competition, recently held in Maryland USA, welcomed 27 submarine designs from 16 countries. The Bath students were joined by UK teams from the universities of Warwick, Plymouth, Southampton and Newcastle, and overall finished ahead of their compatriots taking home the crown of the best performing UK team. The teams competed for various awards including best overall performance, innovation, speed by category, best use of composite materials and spirit of the race. 

This year, BURST launched their new submarine named ‘Salacia’ after the wife of Neptune, the Roman god of water. After a number of adjustments the design passed the wet test and the team were able to complete a full run from their first attempt. Overall, out of a possible seven attempts, the team successfully completed four full runs, each improving in speed and reaching a maximum speed of 3.78 knots.

Commenting on the success of their design, MEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering graduate, Mark Bleakley said: “I am really pleased with how our design performed in Maryland. Whilst we weren’t able to beat the previous BURST speed record, to come away as the top placed UK team is a great achievement.

“We would like to thank our sponsors, without whom there would have been no way in which we’d have built the submarine we did. Our primary sponsor BP provided the funds necessary for us to purchase materials and subsidised the team’s and submarine’s flights to and from the race. Atlas Elektronik were also crucial to the endeavour, providing funds and expertise surrounding the electronic feedback system for the pilot, while pledging further support towards the team’s aim of a fully electronic control system for the European Races. Also, Rolls Royce provided the expertise surrounding the propellers, whilst a number of other sponsors provided material and technical guidance, including BMT Defense, C12 Composites, Akzo Nobel and Vac Innovations.”

The ISR was conceived as an engineering competition to foster engagement in the ocean engineering and science disciplines by young students. Each team must develop a one or two-person ‘wet’ submarine. Crew members breathe underwater using SCUBA diving breathing tanks carried aboard the submarine. Each sub is unique, designed from scratch, and relies upon novel techniques for propulsion and guidance. 

Academic lead and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Dr Stuart Macgregor added: “The team have worked very hard to build a submarine of which, they and the University should be proud. To finish as the top UK team is a great achievement and sets a high standard for teams to follow. This year the team have introduced some very innovative design concepts which will provide a solid foundation for future teams to build on.”

BURST will now look ahead to the European International Submarine Races which will next be held in June 2016 at QinetiQ’s Ocean Basin testing facility at Haslar, Gosport, England.

Eighty-nine percent of the research carried out by the University of Bath’s Department of Mechanical Engineering was ranked ‘internationally excellent’ (3*) and ‘world-leading’ (4*) by the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), an independent assessment of UK university research activity.

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