Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

High-school teen builds one-man submarine for $2,000

New Jersey teenager Justin Beckerman has constructed a working one-man submarine out of spare parts and discarded objects. New Jersey teenager Justin Beckerman has constructed a working one-man submarine out of spare parts and discarded objects.
HIDE CAPTION
Teen builds working submarine for $2,000
Teen builds working submarine for $2,000
Teen builds working submarine for $2,000
Teen builds working submarine for $2,000
Teen builds working submarine for $2,000
Teen builds working submarine for $2,000
Teen builds working submarine for $2,000
Teen builds working submarine for $2,000
Teen builds working submarine for $2,000
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mendham High School student Justin Beckerman builds one-man submarine
  • The Submarine can dive to 30 feet and travels at one and a half miles per hour
  • Inventive teen has also built airplanes, boats, robots, and architectural constructions

(CNN) -- The submarine's body may be constructed from drainage pipes and the hatch from a recycled skylight, but according to its 18-year-old inventor, this single-person U-boat can plunge to a depth of 30 feet and has already completed three successful dives.

The Nautilus took high school inventor Justin Beckerman just six months and $2,000 to put together -- all while keeping on top of his homework.

"He has been building things since he was two years old," says his mother, Jess Beckerman. "If we tried to help him we would just get in the way and mess things up."

The submarine has ballast tanks to maintain its depth and equilibrium; air vents that bring oxygen down from the surface; a functioning PA and a range of emergency systems including back-up batteries, a siren, strobe lights, a breathing apparatus and a pump to fight leaks. The vessel can remain submerged for up to two hours and travels beneath the waves at one and a half miles per hour.

Beckerman says he is going to use it to "explore the lake, see fish and hopefully find a bit of history, like the cannons from my neighbors' historic house" that, he says, were dumped in the lake during renovations in the 1960s.

Silent success of BLUMOTION hinge
Math whiz masters machine translation
How Post-it notes spread like a virus

When he was younger, Beckerman began by making things out of balloons and string, but as the years went by his inventions grew in scale and complexity. At the age of 12, instead of complaining about having to help with the housework, he developed a remote-controlled car that could mop and vacuum.

Beckerman's website is a testament to his enormous productivity. It is a menagerie of home-constructed machines including boats, planes, architectural constructions, and prize-winning robots.

Read: Spectacular tech 'firsts' up for auction

The materials he uses in his creations are often technological cast-offs from family and friends, or garbage scavenged from electronics recycling facilities. The Nautilus has regulators and pressure gauges from an old restaurant soda fountain that Beckerman found behind a shopping center. The two main batteries are from a child's ride-on toy, and its PA speakers are made from an old car stereo.

Beckerman says he decided to build the submarine because "I wanted to see if I could do it. It combined so many different aspects of things that I had worked on in the past." The Nautilus has the most ambitious wiring system Beckerman has installed since he constructed his tree fort -- a veritable forest castle that puts all other tree forts to shame.

Armed with more modern conveniences than many proper homes, the fort has a TV, wall-mounted speakers, desktop computer, air conditioning, shelving, and fluorescent lights. "It has everything a house should have," says Beckerman, "except a refrigerator and a bathroom."

The Nautilus is not Beckerman's first submarine. In fact, it is his fourth. The previous iteration could dive to five feet, but had a less sturdy frame constructed from plastic containers and duct tape. It was propelled by two motor scooter engines, connected to metal blades and two 12v batteries.

I wanted to see if I could do it ...
Justin Beckerman, teenaged inventor

The new design improves on previous models in almost every way.

"I had an idea of how I wanted to sit. I realized that lying down would make the sub more streamlined -- so the drainage pipes seemed a natural fit," he said. But sacrifices to the original design had to be made along the way.

"The ballast tanks were originally going to be air tanks, but they were just too expensive. If I could have learned how to weld I would have made the whole thing out of metal. But that might be for the next one."

Read: Ex-cop builds robot from household goods

Asked if there are any particular challenges which are specific to being a young inventor, Beckerman responds plainly: "No. Other than the budget issues and all of my schoolwork and other obligations that get in the way."

If he had more time and money Beckerman says he would like to continue to add to the submarine. "I would love to add a robotic claw to the front. I would like to make the sub into a more useful thing with a basket the claw could put stuff into to pick up garbage and clean the bottom of the lake."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:09 AM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
Discover a dancing cactus field, basketball on the Hudson River, and mind-bending 3D projections on robotic screens.
updated 1:07 PM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
Would you live there? Design student Peter Trimble says it's actually a surprisingly good idea.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Wed May 14, 2014
Alpha Sphere
Singing Tesla coils, musical ice cream, vegetables on drums... and this ball? Find out how "hackers" have created a new generation of instruments.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
Technology has long learned from nature, but now it's going micro. "Cellular biomimicry" sees designers take inspiration from plant and animal cells.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Forget wearable tech, embeddable implants are here. Learn more about the pioneers who are implanting devices into their bodies.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
A visitor of the 'NEXT Berlin' conference tries out Google Glass, a wearable computer that responds to voice commands and displays information before your eyes. It is expected to go to market in late 2013.
We know how wearable tech can enhance our fitness lives but there's evidence that its most significant application is yet to come: the workplace.
updated 4:13 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Samsung's research unit announces new way to synthesize graphene, potentially opening the door to commercial production.
updated 8:15 AM EDT, Mon March 31, 2014
iRobot, creators of vacuuming robot Roomba reveal how they learned from secret experiments -- in space travel, minefields, and toys.
updated 12:23 PM EDT, Fri March 28, 2014
A light-bulb glowing in middle of a room with no wires attached. "It's the future," says Dr Katie Hall.
updated 11:26 AM EST, Mon March 3, 2014
Knee replacements that encourage cells to regrow could soon be manufactured -- by spiders. Find out how.
updated 9:03 AM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
Meet Chuck Hull: the humble American engineer who changed the world of manufacturing.
updated 9:48 AM EST, Thu February 6, 2014
The key to self-knowledge? Or just the return of the phony "mood ring"? Check out our top mood-sensing technology in development.
updated 4:52 AM EST, Tue February 4, 2014
Inside the incredible cardboard Boeing 777 that's taken one man 10,000 hours to build.
updated 11:11 AM EST, Thu January 30, 2014
We climb inside the Aouda.X: an "intelligent" spacesuit designed for the most treacherous environment yet to be encountered by a human.
updated 3:45 PM EST, Wed January 8, 2014
Is that Tupac and Sinatra performing live? How did that happen?! Meet Eyeliner: the optical system that can bring the dead back to life.
ADVERTISEMENT