We all race in the yellow submarine… We don’t really, but there are a plethora of people actually invested in the activity known as submarine racing, even more than there are those that partake in the online betting on the Daytona 500, which is saying something. Before you get too excited, we are not talking about military grade submarines. That would be vain, unorthodoxly expensive, and not nearly as exciting as this. We are talking about human-powered submarines. Here is the rundown.
EISR and ISR
There are actually several bodies regulating this sport, so let’s start from the good old continent, shall we? In Europe, the governing body that organizes the competition and distributes the titles and prizes, as well as being in charge of the rules is the EISR, or Europe International Submarine Races. There is also ISR, or just International Submarine Races.
To participate, you must be a university student who is a part of a team that designs, builds, and races the contraption. One more thing – the submarine must not only be completely submerged (otherwise, what would be the point), it must also be completely man-powered. In other words, there will be no propulsion mechanisms to speed things along.
Apart from this, the participants have their hands more-or-less free. They are even encouraged to design the gear system, the hull that handles water resistance, and the waterproofing in a way that is innovative and efficient. So, no propulsion other than the operator, who is usually already an athlete, preferably a cyclist, and devil may care about the rest.
What Is the Point?
In truth, man-made submarines are not exactly practical. It would be more correct to say that they have absolutely no real application outside the racing events. Is that really the case, though? The organizations that make these contests also offer scholarships to the more successful contestants, like FURE, or the Foundation for Underwater Research and Education does, so what is the catch?
What we see here is the education in the form of a competition. The students need to figure out how to achieve the best possible performance from their racer, making sure the submarine doesn’t break down, all the while checking whether the person pedaling has enough air supply, since the hull is rarely (try never) waterproof. The students are encouraged to think outside the box and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These skills will help them later in life, especially in careers that include engineering and/or underwater exploration.
Man-powered submarines are made and operated by amateurs that have a chance to display their ingenuity and the capacity to deal with issues as soon as they arise. There are multiple organizations in the world that support this endeavor, thereby nurturing future engineers. If other areas of education operated on a similar principle, it is very likely that the results would be as satisfying as these little competitions.