How the UVic Submarine Racing Club Began

Guest post by Manuel Dussault Gomez

Starting the UVic Submarine Racing Club has been the most challenging and most rewarding task I’ve ever done.

It all began during my co-op work term at Babcock Canada in January 2017. I heard about the international submarine races through a co-worker, and instantly saw an opportunity to promote the field of marine systems engineering, and practice my engineering design and manufacturing skills, as well as my project management proficiency.

At the time, I’d finished my third year in mechanical engineering at UVic. I hadn’t been exposed to marine systems engineering theory or anything related to the marine industry.

As a Marine Technician in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserves, I found myself with a burning desire to expose engineering students to career options in the marine industry.

During summer 2017, I decided to take action and learn everything there was to know about submarine hydrodynamics. I made a number of hand-drawn sketches of submarine hulls based of parameters like the nose radius, prismatic coefficient, fineness ration, etc.

I contacted all my engineering peers and invited them to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Most of them rejected my invitation, thinking it would be too much work. Aiden Massey and Russ Hiltz accepted the invitation, though, and started performing research themselves before the fall semester started.

I then realized the magnitude of the project and the amount of support and resources we were going to need, and decided to create the UVic Submarine Racing Club.

A couple of weeks before the 2017 fall semester started, I contacted Brock Poesiat, a good friend who was president of the engineering student society. I asked what I needed to do in order to become a club.

He guided me to the people I needed to contact and I pitched the idea of designing and building a human powered submarine to promote the field of marine systems engineering at UVic.

Everyone I talked to loved the idea, especially Mary-Anne Teo from the Dean’s Office. She was extremely supportive, and helped me by sending out a massive email to all engineering students promoting the club with my contact information.

After that email got sent out, everything escalated at an exponential rate. The first few weeks of the fall semester were extremely busy for me since I was establishing the club, getting people interested, contacting companies, and dealing with my full course load.

I wrote the constitution of the UVic Submarine Racing Club which detailed executive positions that would soon be filled by the most amazing group of people. After the club executives got established, we began to work hard designing the submarine, hosting informational sessions at UVic and Camosun College, contacting companies, establishing a medium of communication and document storage, and motivating each other to keep going.

We worked hard for four months designing the submarine, and before the Christmas break we had 51 members in the club, a full submarine designed, and roughly $16,000 in our account.

I couldn’t believe what we’d accomplished in only four months, and I was grateful for the opportunity to work beside amazing students from a variety of fields including mechanical, software, electrical, and civil engineering, business students, chemistry students, and even a couple of engineering students from Camosun College.

The main challenges for me at the time were getting funding, keeping everyone motivated, and managing my course load, work, and personal life. I remember waking up every morning at 3am to send sponsorship request letters and packages to companies and organizing the week’s work.

It was really hard finding time to do all of this work. I found strength and support from my fiancée, Hope Torres, who kept me motivated and encouraged me to keep going and not slow down.

Christmas break was a time for me to think of better ways to manage my team. When the spring semester of 2018 started, I found myself with a desire to be the best club on campus.

I kept notifying people of our amazing project and before I knew it, we had a hull built and 92 members registered in the club. Building the hull made it easier to showcase what we’ve accomplished, and it provided us with more funding from companies across Canada.

We now have raised roughly $30,000 and have qualified to attend the 2018 European International Submarine competition in Gosport, England. We’ll be flying out with our completed submarine on July 1, 2018 for a two-week competition against 11 other universities from around the world.

This has been a year for me to network and keep the club motivated. We’ve visited a number of companies including touring the Victoria Class Submarine at Babcock Canada’s facilities, visiting Nuytco Research Ltd. in Vancouver, and hosting an orientation on how to use the ShipConstructor software at SSI’s facilities.

We’ve qualified 12 Open Water divers, and have found co-ops for roughly 10 members of the club in the marine and manufacturing industries.

The tempo of the club is at a maximum at the moment, and we won’t slow down until we have a complete submarine built and the majority of club members interested in pursuing a career in the marine industry.

I believe that the UVic Submarine Racing club has impacted a number of students and faculty members not only at UVic, but at Camosun College as well. I believe this club will remain active for a number of decades, and I also believe that we have motivated UVic to think about their engineering curriculum.

I hope UVic staff takes my actions into consideration and decide to include some marine engineering courses in the curriculum to expose students to the field of marine systems engineering and the marine industry in general.

Manuel Dussault Gomez

My only wish at this period in time is for members of the club to take pride in their accomplishments and to keep aspiring to be the best engineers on campus.      

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