Ben reaches the depths for submarine challenge

Warwick University students with Ben Tomita, first on left, and their ambitious plans to build a human-powered submarine.
Warwick University students with Ben Tomita, first on left, and their ambitious plans to build a human-powered submarine.

A NEWTOWNABBEY engineering student is hoping to plumb the depths with an ambitious plan to build a human-powered submarine.

Ben Tomita, a student at the University of Warwick, and his team, have taken on the challenge for the 2014 European International Submarine Race.

The competition, which takes place in Gosport, England in July, will put submarines, designed and built by students from various universities to the test.

Their submersible vehicles will be tested for speed, design and performance.

Working in a team of eight, the Warwick group plan to complete the submarine, called HPS Shakespeare, in time for the race, which will be the first time the university has entered the undergraduate competition.

Ben and his team are aiming to beat the current speed record of just over 8mph for the competition set by a team in Montreal.

The 22-year-old, fourth year student from the Doagh Road area in Monkstown said the vehicle would be pedal-powered and could reach a depth of around six metres.

He said: “It’s is interesting, and can be tricky. Being underwater can add a whole new dimension of problems to work with.

“Previous events have focused on straight-line speed, but the 2014 race has introduced a slalom course.

“The exciting challenge of the slalom course has meant that the steering has become an integral part of the submarine.

“As head of steering and control, my job is to come up with a functional, cheap and reliable steering system.”

He added: “Biomimetics - learning engineering techniques from the animal kingdom - has also become a core consideration of this project, as we seek to identify creative and innovative solutions. For example, we have looked at using non-linear leading edge fins similar to those found on a humpback whale.

“All the control components impact on drag, which will slow it down, so I am looking at ways of minimising that to improve overall top speed.

“At the end of the project we hope to have a competitive submarine for the race in which will hopefully be victorious in at least one of the award categories for speed, agility and innovation.”

The group is also working with the university’s Sub Aqua Society for advice on diving.

The team is supervised by Dr Ian Tuersley of Warwick Manufacturing Group.

He said: “The group project that they undertake aims to get students from the various engineering disciplines working together. Much as they would need to in real industries and businesses after graduation.

“These design and build competitions provide an additional incentive to produce a functional, finished product within set constraints and to an enforced deadline.”

The team also has a number of sponsorship opportunities for its project, for information email or go to