Piloting "Specter," a half-composite, half-human entry, Virginia Tech engineering students set two world records and won two first place prizes during the recent international Human-Powered Submarine Contest in Escondido, Calif.

Amy Linklater, of Kettering, Ohio, a master’s degree student in aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, set the women’s world speed record with Specter in the one-pilot, non-propeller-driven submarine category. Linklater’s top speed was 3.427 knots.

Adam Maisano, of Carlisle, Pa., a master’s degree student in materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, set a men’s world speed record in the same category with a top speed of 3.574 knots. Both speeds are being submitted by the International Human-Powered Vehicle Association to Guinness World Records for official designation.

Other members of the Virginia Tech Human-Powered Submarine Team are John Hennage, of Fredericksburg, Va., a Ph.D. mechanical engineering student; Andrew Hopkins, of Richmond, Va., a senior aerospace and ocean engineering (AOE) student; Elizabeth Jeffers, of Rockville, Md., a senior materials science and engineering student; Daniel Schaefer-Friedman, of Virginia Beach, Va., a senior AOE student; and John Wilde, of Sanford, N.C., a senior AOE student. The Virginia Tech team also won top prizes in the competition’s categories of most innovative submarine and best operating team, and second place prizes for best submarine design and most safety-conscious team.

Specter has two parts — a fish-inspired fin and a composite nosecone equipped with SCUBA gear. The pilot’s head and torso fit into the nosecone. Propulsion is achieved by butterfly kicking with the fin. Specter was first created for the 2003 International Submarine Races in Maryland, where the Virginia Tech team set an unofficial world speed record.

Virginia Tech engineering students traditionally have fared well in the international submarine competitions, winning first place overall three years in a row from 2000 to 2002 with their "Phantom" series of submarines. Wayne Neu, assistant department head of AOE and the team’s adviser, said the students will design the next generation Phantom for the 2005 competition.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college’s 5,600 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a "hands-on, minds-on" approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 2,000 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become among the largest universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech’s eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top 30 research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.