Tennessee Tech's Submarine Team in action this weekend at World Submarine Invitational '97 in Florida

The submarine racers at Tennessee Technological University are at it again.

Tennessee Tech students, who have set speed records and captured gold and silver medals in international human-powered submarine competitions, are in Florida for the World Submarine Invitational 1997.

The three-day event starts today in the open ocean off the shores of Ft. Lauderdale. Vying with Tennessee Tech for top honors are Florida Atlantic University, the University of Miami and a team from the marine magnet program at South Broward High School in Ft. Lauderdale.

Submarine racing events generally attract fields of 15 or more competing institutions from across the U.S. and around the globe. This weekend's event functions more as an exhibition-style race meant to test the practicality of returning sub competitions to the open ocean. Recent events have all taken place in indoor test basins operated by the U.S. Navy to minimize the disruption of unpredictable weather and tides.

Despite hailing from a land-locked university, Tennessee Tech's team is optimistic about its chances. "We've beaten FAU and the University of Miami before and the submarine we're using, Torpedo III, is newer and has a stronger design than the subs the others will be using," said Brad Klena, a senior mechanical engineering major from Maryville who will be navigator for the event.

Joining Klena in the 117- by 30-inch craft is newcomer Chad Roberts of Soddy Daisy, a former U.S. Navy SEAL whose legs and lungs will power the craft through the ocean. The two use scuba gear to breathe since the human-powered subs operate with flooded, unpressurized cabins.

Tennessee Tech has participated in human-powered sub competitions since the events began in 1989 and has developed an international reputation for excellence for the design and performance of their vessels. The university's most recent honors came at last year's World Submarine Invitational, where it won gold and silver medals, and at 1995's International Submarine Races in Carderock, Md., where Tennessee Tech students set new records for speed.

The team was expected to spend today engaged in water testing and then take its first turn at competition early Saturday. Florida Atlantic University's Department of Ocean Engineering and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, are sponsors of WSI '97. The event is part of the 1997 Shell Air and Sea Show, a massive event expected to attract 200,000 or more spectators.

Details about Tennessee Tech's submarine team, including images and even downloadable motion videos, can be found at the team's web site