Bethesda naval testing facility hosts submarine races

BETHESDA, Md. – Normally, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division is a locked-down military facility where ships and submarines are tested.

This week, the center’s giant basin is filled with students and volunteers testing very different submarines — these are powered by humans.

The International Submarine Races are a partnership between the Navy and the Foundation for Underwater Research and Education. The goal is to inspire high school and college students who have an interest in science and engineering.

Teams from around the world try to get their creations to go as fast as possible in Carderock’s 3,200-foot-long David Taylor Model Basin. The basin is the longest ship model tow basin in the world, according to Daniel Dozier, Navy liaison for the event.

Most of the submarines are powered by pedals, which turn a propeller or other device.

“Think of it as an underwater bicycle,” says Dozier, “but the peddler is in SCUBA gear.”

Teams have 100 yards to reach their peak speed. On Wednesday, a team from Montreal set a world record for a propeller-driven, one-person submarine, reaching a speed of 7.28 knots (8.38 miles per hour), according to Dave McGee, executive director of the International Submarine Races.

Other teams came from the United Statese, England, Mexico, the Netherlands, Germany and Oman.

One upstart team, Carts Independent, is based in Accokeek, Md. The team started with the Carts family and grew to include several other families of home-schooled children.

“They studied about underwater animals … and they came up with a design,” says parent Teri Lazar.

In addition to being the newest team, they were also the youngest, with children between the ages of eight and 16 pitching in.

This year’s events wrap up Friday. The races are held every other year at Carderock, which first hosted them in 1995.

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