High-school teen builds one-man submarine for $2,000

The submarine's body may be constructed from drainage pipes and the hatch from a recycled skylight, but according to its 18-year-old inventor, this single-person U-boat can plunge to a depth of 30 feet and has already completed three successful dives. "He has been building things since he was two years old," says his mother, Jess Beckerman. "If we tried to help him we would just get in the way and mess things up."

The submarine has ballast tanks to maintain its depth and equilibrium; air vents that bring oxygen down from the surface; a functioning PA and a range of emergency systems including back-up batteries, a siren, strobe lights, a breathing apparatus and a pump to fight leaks. The vessel can remain submerged for up to two hours and travels beneath the waves at one and a half miles per hour. Beckerman says he is going to use it to "explore the lake, see fish and hopefully find a bit of history, like the cannons from my neighbor's historic house"

Armed with more modern conveniences than many proper homes, the fort has a TV, wall-mounted speakers, desktop computer, air conditioning, shelving, and fluorescent lights. "It has everything a house should have," says Beckerman, "except a refrigerator and a bathroom.

The Nautilus is not Beckerman's first submarine. In fact, it is his fourth. The previous iteration could dive to five feet, but had a less sturdy frame constructed from plastic containers and duct tape. It was propelled by two motor scooter engines, connected to metal blades and two 12V batteries. The new design improves on previous models in almost every way. "I had an idea of how I wanted to sit. I realized that lying down would make the sub more streamlined -- so the drainage pipes seemed a natural fit," he said. But sacrifices to the original design had to be made along the way.

Asked if there are any particular challenges which are specific to being a young inventor, Beckerman responds plainly: "No. Other than the budget issues and all of my schoolwork and other obligations that get in the way." 

If he had more time and money Beckerman says he would like to continue to add to the submarine. "I would love to add a robotic claw to the front. I would like to make the sub into a more useful thing with a basket the claw could put stuff into to pick up garbage and clean the bottom of the lake."



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