As a partner of the UK Year of Engineering 2018, the IMarEST is supporting the campaign with its human-powered submarine races. The races are part of its ongoing commitment to tackle the shortage of new engineering talent in the marine industry.
In July, university teams from around the world will travel to QinetiQ’s Ocean Basin in Gosport, near Portsmouth, UK, to compete in the fourth biennial European International Submarine Races. This unique engineering and sporting challenge has students design, build and race human-powered submarines in a demanding underwater slalom course. The excitement of the races draws talented engineers into the marine sector and cultivates the essential skills, such as leadership, problem-solving and working to strict deadlines, they will eventually require in their careers. The event also helps create a larger pool of highly-skilled and creative graduates to meet industry needs.
The imagination and inventiveness demonstrated in the submarine designs is a unique way to inspire schoolchildren to go into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. In its previous editions, the event’s impact has been amplified through extensive media coverage by leading news organisations and through an Open Day held in parallel to the competition. The Open Day includes fun interactive science and engineering activities for kids and an engineering-themed Careers Fair for older students. There will be backstage opportunities to meet the human-powered submarine teams and see how a submarine works up close.
There are only 12 places on the starting line, so the competition has already begun as teams vie to qualify for those coveted starting spots. So far 18 teams from Europe, the US and Canada have registered for the races and begun building their submarines. The rules of the sport are straightforward: teams must design, build and race flooded submarines piloted by a single scuba diver, who is fully enclosed within the hull of the machine. All propulsive power must be provided by the diver during the race, but otherwise the designs are left open to the limits of imagination. This combination of design constraints and design freedom matches the challenges confronted in real-world engineering projects and has led to pioneering and ground-breaking designs, such as that of the submarine by the Canadian world-record breakers with their innovative propeller at the 2012 races, covered by the BBC.
IMarEST is a partner in the UK’s Year of Engineering, a campaign to encourage young people to consider a career in engineering and help mitigate the shortfall currently being experienced in this profession. Engineering UK’s 2018 report found that 61% of businesses are anxious about a lack of applicants to fill their high-skilled jobs. It forecasts more than 124,000 additional engineers and technicians with core engineering skills are will be needed each year for the next decade. Through initiatives such as the submarine race and its 5-Year Graduate Pathway (an early career support plan), the IMarEST is committed to closing this skills gap and meeting its strategic goal of supporting the development and sustainability of the marine sector.
The European International Submarine Races and associated Open Day are the IMarEST’s flagship student event. The 2018 races are sponsored by QinetiQ, Defence Equipment & Support, Babcock International and Sea Cadets UK.