Published by The Prince George’s Sentinel
Sam Carts, 16, bumped out of his league and into an international submarine race. Then Katie Benoe, 17, dove into the world’s longest tow tank and into an action film.
Carts Independent– an Accokeek team of four teenagers, two preteens, an 8-year-old and an ex-marine raced the yellow human-powered submarine “Il Calamaro” in the 12th International Submarine Races from July 24 through July 28 at the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s David Taylor Model Basin.
“I feel like I’m in a James Bond movie,” Benoe said in the 22-foot-deep pool, preparing to pilot the submarine after less than two weeks of receiving her SCUBA certification. “It’s awesome.”
Teams from high schools, colleges and independent groups were invited to participate in the weeklong contest. But the Accokeek team was the lone Maryland representative at the West Bethesda event. And the only independent team in 2013.
“Every year there’s, you know, there’s sort of one team that sort of stands out for innovation (or) some special thing.
And this year, this is my team,” Senior Supervisory Engineering Manager Daniel Dozier said of Carts Independent.
Dozier competed in every race from 1991 to 2009.
Carts first heard about the competition at a naval forensics seminar at National Harbor. It wasn’t something that the aspiring chef immediately decided to pursue.
“First thing on my mind was like ‘Oh pff (scoff), no way,’” the team leader said. “We can’t do that. That’s out of our league.’”
Carts later tried to assemble a high school team. Unable to find willing participants, he looked to friends on the swim team, his church’s congregation and his neighbors.
The motley crew featured Teddy Schwalm, 13, Lydia Kivrak, 16, Abby Gerstman, 12, Ella Gerstman, 10, and Sophie Gerstman, 8, former marine Karl Larson, Benoe and Carts. And a few proud parents.
They started constructing the submarine together in April, cutting circles from foam, sanding and piecing fiberglass and painting. The team added a cylindrical section to enable pedaling. Carts laid down as the team drew an outline of the submarine around him on a 12-foot-long section of brown Butcher paper.
The 15-foot-4 long “Il Calamaro” was one of three submarines in the 22-boat contest with a non-propeller propulsion system.
“It’s definitely something I’ve never seen before with the linear pedaling,” Texas A&M junior ocean engineering major Hannah Huezo said of the Maryland submarine.
The Texas A&M submarine “S.S. Rowdy Howdy” was named after the school’s greeting. “Il Calamaro” or “The Squid” in Italian was named for its initial design.
“We were originally thinking of some kind of a squid-like propulsion system, but we eventually decided that was going to be too expensive and we didn’t have the experience to do something as sophisticated as that,” Kivrak said.
It was Kivrak’s sophisticated grasp of advanced mathematics that produced the structure’s design.
“Lydia (Kivrak) did like the calculus, algebra all the really hard stuff,” Carts said.
“We calculated how much foam it would take to be neutrally buoyant (and) the surface area of the sub,” Kivrak said.
“I calculated the speed it did go when we were practicing.” It was about 1.5 knots or 1.726 mph.
“She’s our little calculus genius,” Abby Gerstman said of the 16-year-old homeschooled sophomore who recently completed AB Calculus.
Gerstman wasn’t the only one recognizing Kivrak’s intellect.
“I don’t care what she has learned or not learned at this point. If she’s at that stage (two or three years above average), we can take that clay and we can mold it,” Dozier said. Carderock wants “people like Lydia.”
Dozier recruits submarine race participants for the Office of Naval Research internships. He met Kivrak the morning of the first race day and encouraged her to apply at Carderock.
“I want to try to find some good work for her here,” Dozier said.
“This event is what we do here at Carderock on navy systems,” he added. “All the people here, they’re problem solving. They’re trying to invent something. They get in the water and their idea that they thought was going to work, it doesn’t work so well. They have to come out try to fix it go back.”
“Il Calamaro” didn’t complete the 100 meter run (as of Thursday afternoon).
Lack of perfect circular shape, familiarity with a new rudder and pilot thrust were some of the potential reasons cited for its downfall, team members said.
Huezo said a lack of yawl control that would enable left to right movement is one fault in the Maryland design.
“The only way that they can turn is putting extra power into one kick, and that’s not going to give them a lot of control,” she said.
Huezo said she noticed the Maryland team’s adjustments in doing everything they can to finish the race.
“They’re doing well with what they have,” she said. “They’re starting, like, there are lots of teams out here who haven’t started yet, who have barely been in the water.”
The Maryland team plans to race as much as possible. Abby Gerstman updates the team schedule with color markers during lunch. The team objectives are listed under the schedule:
1. have fun
2. Race! Race! Race!
3. Not kill each other
4. Celebrate Mrs. C’s B-Day
“We’re doing okay. I’m having fun and no one’s died yet, so that’s a good thing,” Abby Gerstman said after racing the submarine Thursday afternoon.
For Carts, the experience has been surreal.
“It’s something like you see in movies (or) in the newspaper – somebody built like a homemade space shuttle or something, and then, you think, ‘oh that’s cool, but you never have a thought like ‘oh I could do that.’”
“But here we are,” he said. “This is kind of like a big bump (from) everyday life.”