Tennessee Tech sub captures gold, silver at World Submarine Invitational

Tennessee Tech's Human-Powered Submarine Team captured gold and silver medals at the World Submarine Invitational, fulfilling a two-year drive by students to set record speeds with their newest sub, Torpedo III.

The six-day event ended April 4 with TTU student John Gore of Nashville in first place, collegiate division, one-person propeller class, for 5.7 knots. In the collegiate two-person propeller class, Gore and Mike Tucker landed a silver medal for a speed of 6.1 knots, trailing only .4 knots behind class leader OMER, raced by students from Montreal's Ecole de Technologie Superieure. Tennessee Tech's long-time rival in sub racing, Florida Atlantic University trailed behind in both classes, chalking up 4.5 knots in a one-person run and 6.0 knots in the two-person class.

While Tennessee Tech and rivals jockeyed for position, the clear leader at the event was a slip of a sub named SubStandard raced by two brothers from California. On the first day of the World Submarine Invitational, SubStandard laid down a blistering 6.7 knot speed that no other team could equal. Guinness officals confirmed it: SubStandard is the new world record holder for top speed.

"Essentially we were out-engineered -- not by much, but by enough," team adviser Joe Scardina said, summing up SubStandard's impact on Tennessee Tech and the remainder of the field.

The speed Substandard achieved the first day of the competition left everyone reeling in surprise, he said. Competitors had arrived at the event expecting to see speeds in excess of 6 knots, but not in the high 6-knot range. SubStandard's team members, two brothers from Northridge, Calif., arrived at the Offshore Model Basin in a pick-up truck, unloaded their sub, did six runs and left -- leaving everyone gasping in their wake.

Tennessee Tech's team achieved speeds close to what it set out to do and what Torpedo III's propeller blades were optimized for: 6.2 knots. The team took 25 runs, experimenting with one- and two-person configurations and using different combinations of propellers, but found it impossible to come closer to Substandard's dazzling performance.

"Even though we didn't win, it's impressive to think that four teams at this event -- including us -- exceeded 6 knots and surpassing the previous world speed record (5.9 knots)," Scardina said. "In December the fastest speed we reached was 5.6 knots. The fact that the students reached 6.2 knots this time really underscores how well they're doing."

The message for next year's races delivered by Substandard is that "everyone must work harder," he added wryly.