Category Archives: Design Teams

Student Team Competitions: ISR 15 Part 2

Hello again,

In this post I will be continuing to talk about my trip to the International Submarine Races(ISR) this past June.  If you are interested to hear about the run up to competition and the journey over there, you are welcome to check out my previous post here.  To recap, I am part of SUBC, UBC’s submarine design team and we road tripped across the country to Maryland to race other collegiate teams at ISR.

The Base

Because submarines need to be underwater, and salt water is very corrosive, submarine races take place in ocean basins.  These are indoor large freshwater bodies that are maintained in military bases, often used for naval experiments or testing.  In essence, I would describe the ocean basin at ISR as an airstrip underwater.  However, because of the military nature of location there are some security measures that you have to be careful of such as staying in the area of the competition and not wandering elsewhere.  As well, you need to submit paperwork ahead of the time for security clearance to enter the base, especially if you are not a Canadian or American citizen.

Checks

In order to be qualified to race, we had to pass the dry and wet check.  The dry check consists of the entire submarine being assembled and demonstrated above water to ensure that all safety regulations are met.  The wet check demonstrates in the water that safety systems are working.  It’s not uncommon for issues to arise in assembly or between checks.  Some issues that came up for us included misalignment of the hatch locking mechanism as well as the gearbox.  These problems require quick fixes with limited tools and materials.  You learn a lot trying to fix systems that you did not originally make under pressure with the small group of people available.  It also tests and strengthens your communication and team working abilities, as they are needed constantly.

Racing

Racing consisted of the divers suiting up in full scuba gear and bringing the submarine to the lift which lowered into the basin.  The divers brought the submarine to the basin floor in order to make buoyancy adjustments.  These adjustments were done by attaching small weights and pieces of foam to the inside of the submarine.  Once we were confident our submarine was neutrally buoyant, we entered the race queue to wait for our turn.  The race coordinator warned us when we were next and the support divers moved our submarine to the start line, while the secondary diver brought the pilot underwater to meet the submarine and load the pilot inside.  Once the pilot was loaded, the divers signaled for the race to start. After a count down over the underwater speakers, the pilot took off down the course towards the finish line!

Conclusion

Submarine racing is a complicated business to an outsider but its a very rewarding one for an engineering student.  Through my time competing at submarine races the last couple of years I have gained serious team-working, communication as well as technical and interpersonal skills that have been honestly very useful in finding co-op jobs and my confidence in my abilities.  I would encourage anyone given the opportunity to go to a student team competition to make the most of it and dive in head first!

Later,

Allysia

 

Student Team Competitions: Takeways from SUBC’s Trip to the International Submarine Races

Introduction

Engineering Student Design Teams can be a big part of student life here within Mechanical Engineering, including my own.  Since joining in my second year, SUBC has become a big part of my life and my identity within Mech so I thought it would be an interesting read to see what its like to go to a student team competition.

The goal of most student team projects is to eventually compete in a intercollegiate competition.  For UBC Thunderbots, they compete at Robocup (the world cup of soccer for robots), or UBC Baja competes at the Baja SAE competition annually with their off-road vehicle.  My team, SUBC builds a human powered submarine to compete at two separate biannual competitions.  In effect, we compete annually but each competition runs biannually.  At the end of June, I had the awesome opportunity to road trip across the US to Bethesda, Maryland to compete in the International Submarine Races with our sub, Skookumchuck Mk. V.

Pre-Competition Madness

The run up to competition is always very turbulent.  There are administrative and technical deadlines that need to be met in order to compete.  Of course, we want our submarine to be fully functional and as optimized as possible but there is a fine balance between working until the deadline and stopping to pack away our tools to take with us as well as surfacing and painting the submarine.  In addition, we had a technical design report on our submarine due a month before we left and a technical presentation a week before we left.

It seems to be common that students leave their design teams for summer once classes and finals end for the term.  However, many design teams including SUBC have competitions are around the end of June and beginning of July, and I have found that the best way to learn and get the most out of the student team experience is to work during the pre-competition rush starting in May.  Those who are not on co-op have the opportunity to spend hours in the machine shop gaining practical skills with almost constant projects available for them to work on.  And those who are on co-op can come in after work or on the weekends to lend a hand.  The most happens during this time in terms of problem solving, machining and systems integration which provides an optimal opportunity for someone working on one area of the project to expand and get a good grip on other systems.  I would encourage anyone who craves more knowledge and technical skills to take advantage of amount of work available during the run up to competition.

The Journey – The Eye of the Storm

One of the best parts of getting to go on one of these trips is the travel there.  Those who could get the time off work road tripped with the sub across the US and those who could only get time for the competition itself flew in.  We drove around 12 hours a day between the three drivers and two pick-up trucks, staying at motels, AirBNBs and camping along the way.

I was worried the first time I went to a competition about whether I would get along with the people I traveled with especially because it seemed like everybody knew each other better than I did.  I can only speak about my own experience, but I found that everybody was very welcoming and interested to bring me into the fold.  Similarly, during the trip to Maryland I was excited to become better friends with the newer members who were joining us.  I would encourage anybody on the fence about going to competition about making friends and knowing other people on the trip to just go anyways.  The more the merrier!

Being on the road trip is a great way to bond anyways.  You learn everybody’s music preferences, what food they like and have lots of time to talk and get to know each other.  Plus there is the additional bonding experience of dealing with road trip troubles such as getting lost or having small car troubles.  During our trip a couple of notable ones included when the key fob for one of the cars stopped working spontaneously, or when we thought we were in a ghost town while finding an AirBnB in Indiana in the very early hours of the morning. We traveled with two pickup trucks with a walkie talkie in each to help keep our caravan together.   A personal highlight for my trip was playing 20 questions across cars in the middle of Wisconsin.

That’s how I ended up across the country in Rockville, Maryland.  I’ll be posting another post shortly related to my experiances during the actual competition itself.  Check back soon to read up on that! Or check out my co-blogger’s post about his student team competition experiences heading to California to race his team’s E-Bike.

Later,

Allysia

Design Team Competition: Lost Sierra E-bike Festival (pt2)

Welcome back reader,

I the last post I discussed the preparation leading up to our first competition and the journey we took to get there. In this one, I’d like to recount the details of the festival itself, including the weather, the camping, the food, the people and most importantly, the race.

Firstly, I wanted to talk a bit more about my team’s purpose and electric bike as a whole. ThunderBikes was founded by my friend and classmate, Bhargav, last year with the goal of promoting the use of e-bike as a mode of transportation. The team is doing this through high performance bike projects as well as encouraging and helping their own members to do their own electric conversion. Less than 5 percent of Vancouver residents commute to work by bike. This is often largely due to the extended range of most commutes, as housing in the city or on campus is very expensive. Electric bikes is a fantastic method of transportation and significantly increase the range of an average commute. This push towards e-bikes will also help lower the congestion of commuting by car or public transit to campus, improve student health through exercise, and create eco-friendly transportation methods around vancouver. 

Camping

Camping outdoors means exposing yourself to the elements, both hot and cold. And California in July is both hot and sunny in the day and quite chilly during the night. Fortunately for us, it did not rain. If you plan on camping this season, remember to check the weather forecast (highest and lowest temperature) and bring sufficient layers to dress up or down depending on the time of day. There was a lot of bugs at night, as they seek sources of light, so bring along bug spray. At night, the temperature dipped below 10°C, so invest in a warm sleeping bag and a comfy pad before heading out.

One Friday, we delegated one member to go grocery shopping while the other two stayed at camp to set-up. We had bought a butane stove, a saucepan and some camping dining ware at a nearby walmart. For dinner we boiled pasta and had it with canned chilli. We brought along soda and water in a cooler, which was great to keep everything cold. On Saturday breakfast, we boiled water to cook oatmeal, to which we added strawberries and peanut butter. For lunch, we grilled some corn on the cob right on top of our stove. Dinner was a western bbq provided by EcoBikes which included dishes including baked beans and beef brisket.

Race Day

We woke up early Saturday morning to prepare for our race. We signed up for only one race out of many (we qualified for the throttle assist class, but there were also pedal class, adaptive class, and super class). Bhargav, our rider for the race, went on a test run of the trail. Courtesy of EcoBike, I was able to borrow a pedal-assist bike and followed after him. The trail was a 10 km loop up into the mountains, consisting of big inclines and declines, countless turns, jumps and different rough surfaces (rocks, mounds, streams). It took me half an hour to complete the course, and I finished with sore hands and a very dirty bike. After our test ride, we did an overall inspection of the bike, and performed last minute adjustments to the suspensions, the pressure tires and secured all loose wires. We then left the bike to charge.

The race started at 2:30 P.M. One by one the racers stepped up to the start line and rode off; they were timed individually. As Bhargav rode off towards the mountain, we cheered him on and then waited anxiously for him to come back. 20 minutes later, we saw him slowly approaching the finish line. After he crossed, we slowly made our way towards the barn, and I noticed the flat tire. It turned out that our bike got a flat tire on the rear about 1 km into the trail, but the rider did not notice. He then crashed on a steep decline and was unable to keep going. Unfortunately, we could not finish the trail, and the bike suffered some damage to the rear wheel. We were disappointed with the result, but admitted it was down to track experience and unlucky failure, rather than a design flaw.

Other teams

Besides competing, this festival was a great chance to network with other teams. Some prominent e-bike designers attended, including Stealth and HPC. HPC sponsored some of the events and brought their own riders to compete using their bikes. Stealth had some of their models for us to test ride, and merch to give out. We also met some individuals who were just e-bike enthusiasts there to enjoy the atmosphere. Among them was Cutis, our camp neighbor who we shared some beers with; he’s a seasoned mountain biker who recently transitioned into e-mountain biking as he got older, and Daniel, a professor at Sonoma State University who built his own battery. Everyone there were very friendly and open to talk about their e-bike knowledge and experiences. We definitely took some inspiration from them that we could use for our future builds.

Conclusion

The Lost Sierra E-bike Festival was a great experience and a fun trip. Although the result was not what we wanted, we took a lot of positives from our design; we also learned a lot about other designs and have ideas for next year’s build. I would highly recommend going to competition with your design team if you have the chance, as you would definitely not regret it in hindsight.

Design Team Competition: Lost Sierra E-Bike Festival (pt1)

Hello reader,

In July I traveled with my team, ThunderBikes, to Northern California to participate in the Lost Sierra Electric Bike Festival, hosted by EcoBike Adventures. It was a 3 day event consisting of various races and e-bike competitions and showcases. Design competitions are big events that teams work towards every year. At UBC, there are many design teams that compete in competitions annually, many of which are organized by SAE. This is the first competition our team have ever attended, and it was a great chance to establish our reputation as one of the newest design team within the engineering department. In this post I will tell you all about our preparation the week prior to the trip as well as the journey to California.

The week before competition is always the busiest and most chaotic period during the year. Everything for the trip had to be arrange and final repairs and adjustments were made to our bike. Like most road trips, we had to plan our transportation, lodging, food options and what to pack. Transportation was complicated by the fact that we had to store our e-bike, which was over 100 lbs inside the car. With the help of Modo, we managed to rent a Toyota Sienna, which comfortably fit all three people coming to competition, all our bags and the bike.

Lodging was also difficult to find, since the festival was being held near a forest and an hour away from the nearest city. Fortunately, our host, Eco Bike, offered camping accommodation including running water and toilets. They were generous enough to offered us free tickets to the festival and free camping. All that was left was to collect camping gear, tools to work on the bike while on the road and we were ready. On a side note for all international students, be sure to get your US Visa early. Applications usually take a couple of days, and after that you need to arrange for an interview. The whole process takes about 5 weeks, so be mindful of that if your competition takes place in the US.

We planned our route to get to California; since all of us had either classes or work, we could only take a few days off. We planned to leave on Thursday afternoon and get back by Monday, which meant a lot of driving each day. Our destination in California was the Sierra County, about 1600 km from Vancouver; we planned on driving to Seattle (4 hours) and spending the night there, then driving 12 hours on Friday to Sierra.

We headed out on Thursday at 5 pm. it took us 1.5 hours to get to the border and about half an hour to get through. After having dinner in Bellingham, we drove to Sammamish, a suburban town outside of Seattle. Our night was a short one, and we left at 3 A.M to continue our journey; we arrived at Salem, just outside of Portland at 8 A.M and had a breakfast break. We then continued through Umpqua National Forest to Klamath Falls, where we stopped for lunch and bought some extra camping accessories at the local Walmart. Finally, we arrived at our campsite off the road in the Sierra County, California around 6 P.M. We spent the rest of that day setting up our campsite, cooking dinner and doing some small checks on our bike.

Stay tuned for part 2, where I discuss the events of the Festival!

Take Care,

Huy