A high school student just built a submarine that really dives underwater

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Ken Beckerman

Justin Beckerman, an 18-year-old high school junior from New Jersey, just built a completely DIY, fully functional one-man submarine.

Yeah. Really.

The West Morris Mendham High School student built a nine-foot-long, 1300-pound submarine dubbed the Nautilus. This underwater vessel, fashioned mostly out of lightweight corrugated plastic tubes typically used in drainage pipes, doesn’t just look the like a submarine; Justin says it can dive to depths of 30 feet.

Ken Beckerman

The DIY submarine took Justin approximately six months and nearly $2000 to build, in addition to lots of loving support from his father, Ken Beckerman. Justin built his vessel mostly out of salvaged materials, including a 30-pound thrust trolling motor, a small compressor, three ballast tanks, a breathing hose in case the Nautilus floods, and a Plexiglas dome made from skylights.

There’s also about 2000 feet of wiring connected to four huge batteries meant for tractors. It’s a fully loaded aquatic vehicle, complete with a two-way radio, a PA system, three fans for ventilation, two paddle fins, a wireless camera, and 200 watts of LED lighting.

Ken Beckerman
The control panel.

When Justin gets into the submarine, he sits upright in front of a set of controls ripped out of an airplane cockpit. From the cockpit, Justin can manually control the fins and the propeller. Meanwhile, the submarine can steam ahead at about two or three miles per hour.

This isn’t the first time Justin has tinkered around with DIY equipment. In fact, he’s been hacking electronics since he was two years old. When Justin was 12, he hacked together a homemade Roomba that was a remote-controlled broom and mop, and two years later, he made a video-viewing helmet called the Head Entertainment.

Ken Beckerman

So far, Justin has taken the Nautilus on a couple of outings on and under Lake Hopatcong. Justin says that the deepest he’s gone in the water is about a foot for nearly an hour, but the next test dive will go five feet deep. Ultimately, though, the Nautilus can only dive as deep as 30 feet because that’s exactly how long a lifeline connected to a homemade buoy, which pumps air to the submarine, is.

When asked what it was like diving in his homemade submarine, Justin told TechHive:

“It was pretty cool. When you’re floating on the surface everything is pretty loud because there’s a lot of vibrations coming from the pumps and fans everywhere. Once the sub starts going under and you start seeing below the water level, it starts to get real quiet and everything gets muffled. The fans and all the vibrations stop, all you hear is the bubbles trickling up, and after a while, that stops too. So it’s almost silent, except you have a little radio that you're talking to the people on the surface and just the switches that you're hitting. It’s virtually silent [down there] except for that. It’s pretty cool.”

Ken Beckerman
Justin inside the submarine, along with lots of wiring.

Justin isn't focused on adding additional components to his submarine just yet. Instead, he is trying to get his submarine just right by fine-tuning things like adding more weight to the ballast tanks to make it perfectly balanced. Justin says that a trip out to the big wide ocean with the Nautilus isn’t even in sight yet.

For his next projects, Justin wants to build more remote-control robots, and he also plans to go to college to study engineering.

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This story, "A high school student just built a submarine that really dives underwater" was originally published by TechHive.

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