Submarine launch investigation

Lesson overview

The submarines used for the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey were in the strictest sense submersibles. A distinction is made between true submarines that operate independently and submersibles which require the support of a surface vessel. In this lesson, students develop an understanding of structural strength and stability. They will then design and build a model crane suitable for lifting and moving a weight. This activity replicates the science involved in launching and recovering a submersible using a surface vessel.

Learning outcomes

  • Describe how to produce a strong and stable structure (foundation)
  • Describe the purpose of each part of a crane’s structure (developing)
  • Construct a working model of a crane (competent)
  • Calculate the moments of some given examples (expert)
  • Explain the importance of launching and raising the submarine from the back of a ship, rather than the side (advanced)

Lesson steps

  1. Brief (5 mins)
    Students are introduced to the concept of structures, and how structures are designed and built for strength by looking at the similarities between various structures. The context of designing and building a crane to launch and recover a submersible vehicle at sea is introduced. Students set themselves targets based on the learning criteria of the lesson.
  2. Cranes (40 mins)
    Students follow the investigation brief to try to design and build a crane suitable for lifting and placing a mass. Students are encouraged to adapt their designs, and make changes as they go.
  3. Calculate moments (10 mins)
    Using the slides, students learn how to calculate moments, and the safety considerations when launching and recovering a submersible vehicle. Students calculate various moments due to lifting a submersible vehicle at sea, and determine if they will result in a surface vessel tipping. Teacher may well wish to dedicate more time to the design and build task.
  4. Self-reflection (5 mins)
    Students decide if they have met their targets set at the beginning of the lesson, and reflect on the lesson’s importance in the context of the Scheme of Work to design a submarine.
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