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Submarine pilot

Deep ocean expeditions require specially trained submarine pilots. It is their job to take the science and communications teams safely into the underwater world. Crushing pressure, unpredictable current systems, entanglement in ghost nets, catastrophic equipment failure, or of course pilot error, are just some of the risks of entering the hostile environment of the deep ocean.

Ages 8+

10-30 minutes

New submarine pilots often have difficulty steering the submarine because of how the plastic pressure hull and the water distort their vision. Over time, they get used to this, but we can’t have a new submarine pilot crash a submersible. Your challenge is to teach your brain how to adjust for this distortion.

Activity steps

  1. Fill the glass two thirds full with water. The glass should be clear and without patterns as you will need to look through it.
  2. Place it on a table and position the two pens or pencils and yourself as shown in the diagram.
  3. Now pick up one pen(cil) in each hand, and looking through the glass, try to get the ends to meet.
  4. How did you get on? Look over the glass to see how close you got.
  5. Do you need some more practice? Keep on trying to get the ends of the pen(cil)s to meet.
  6. As you keep on trying, your brain will adapt to your new way of seeing the world and the task should get easier.
  7. Once you think you have got the hang of this, you will need to pass your 'test'.
  8. In one minute, touch the ends of the pen(cil)s together five times.

More ideas

If you found this activity too easy, try moving the pencils further away from the glass. Say about 20cm away.

This will mean that the direction of the pen(cil)s reverse, which may pose an even greater challenge!

Safety guidance

  • You can use any cylindrical glass, bottle or jug. Be careful of knocking over the glass, bottle, etc when you are trying to get the ends of the pen(cil)s to meet.

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