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  Superhuman Subs
 
 
Photo of Submarine Omer
  This pilot of the sleek sub Omer has little room to spare.

In an enormous naval testing tank near Washington, D.C., a unique contest tests the design skills, and the stamina, of a group of very passionate contestants. The human-powered submarine contest has been drawing enthusiasts from around the world for 13 years. In 1994, FRONTIERS filmed the event when it was held just off of the coast of Florida, where the choppy waters and unpredictable conditions made for somewhat treacherous racing.

This year, in the more controlled tank setting, the submarines must race against the clock in a 100-meter sprint to the finish. While most of the subs are propellered and built around a single, peddling diver, the designs vary widely - from the slick, powerful Montreal-based Omer, to the larger but decidedly more comfortable Reef Cruiser, in which pilot Bob Golobic propels his craft from a seated position.

photo of Scuba-Doo Submarine
Speedy Scuba Doo surprised the competition, but not its young builder Logan Rainard.  

One two-person boat has managed to harness the power of both peddlers, compensating for its increased weight. While this sub, from the University of Michigan, does place in the top four, the surprise star of the contest is Scuba Doo, built by high school student, Logan Rainard. Working with his neighbor, engineer Ed Liebolt, Logan came up with a sleek design and exceptional propeller that gives him the second fastest time overall. In first place, the super-speedy Omer, whose best time is more that two knots ahead of the rest of the pack. Rounding out the top finishers is Virginia Tech, whose captain, Justin Hlavin, first learned of the race from the FRONTIERS coverage in '94, and knew this was the contest for him.

For more on this topic, see the web features:
Young Inventors

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