For Steve Barton and the student team involved with the human-powered submarine Sublime, the quest has always been the same: More speed.
When the sub's crew competes next week in the 10th running of the International Human-powered Submarine Races, they will bring with them all of the knowledge they have acquired since the project began in 2002 — plus something brand new.
Team members Chris Sarabalis and Dylan Smith believe that the shiny stainless steel propeller jutting from the aft of the one-man sub may hold the key to pushing Sublime to a top speed of 5 knots for the first time.
Sarabalis, a 17-year-old junior at Springstead High, said the propeller's design took months of research and experimentation before teammate Smith was able to construct it. "It's going to greatly improve our speed," Sarabalis offered. "We might even win the race."
In anticipation of the races, which will run June 22-26, the team visited Weeki Wachee Springs Tuesday to show off the two subs it plans to enter, Sea Wolf, a developmental submarine that was built in 2007, and Sublime, which now sports an image of Weeki Wachee mermaid Marcy Terry.
"It's a beautiful sub," said Barton, as he watched team members pose with the craft for photographers. "It makes me feel good about our chances next week."
Winning, of course, would be the crowning achievement for the five teens who have poured countless hours into Sublime's development, said Barton, a construction technology teacher at Springstead High School, who has been advisor to the submarine project since 2002.
"We've done a lot of testing, and that's going to be a huge advantage once we get to the races," Barton said. "We're about as well-prepared as we've ever been."
The races, which are held every two years at U.S. Naval Submarine testing facility in Bethesda. Md., attract teams of engineering students from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe.
The Hernando team, which also includes 2009 Central High graduate Curtis Weaver, 18, Nature Coast Technical High junior Carmen Morales, 17, Central High junior Jackie Force, 17, plus 2007 Springstead High graduate Eric Cosma, 19, is the only high school team competing in this year's event.
The competition is held on a measured 100-meter course at a depth of about 30 feet. Wearing scuba tanks, sub pilots pedal their vessels 90 meters toward a 10-meter-long zone where their top speed is measured. Sublime's best speed to date was 4.84 knots, which was reached in 2007.
Barton, whose involvement in human-powered submarines dates to the early 1990s, when his late son, Stephen, built one for a high school science project, said the event stresses teamwork and innovation among participants.
At the 2007 races, Sublime finished fourth behind Texas A&M, the University of Michigan and Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal in Canada, but well ahead of schools such as the University of Maryland, Virginia Tech and the University of Florida.
"It's not about how much money you spend," Barton said. "We've beaten teams who spent 30 times what we spent on our sub."
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or 848-1435.