The Ecological Submarine





Introduction: The Ecological Submarine

The objective for the design is to aid researchers and young scientists to monitor the quality of water using inexpensive instrumentation. Our design is equipped with four sensors to record the levels of nitrate and dissolved oxygen in water as well as the temperature and pH. Some of the sites where the instrument can be deployed are at estuaries which are home to many species of terrestrial and aquatic organisms and rivers. More than two thirds of the fish and shellfish we eat spend some part of their lives in estuaries. Additionally, these ecosystems provide many other important ecological functions because they act as filters for terrestrial pollutants and provide protection from flooding. The balance of this fragile ecosystem needs to be protected because they are easily destroyed by human activities such as sedimentation from construction sites, nitrate from fertilizer use, erosion of natural deposits and many other pollutants. We hope that in future generations our instrument can be used as a stepping stone in order to detect and prevent any alterations in the quality of water that may disrupts life cycles of marine organisms which may result in disastrous effect for the marine food web.

Step 1: Purchasing the Required Material

The first step to get started on building the ECO-SUB (The name of our device) is to purchase the following materials that are listed in the table in the following step. It comes with the details and parts numbers of each components required for the assemblage of the ECO-SUB and this information can be found in the next step.

Step 2: List of Items

The following Table below lists items used in the making of Eco-Sub along with their matching item numbers as used by Vernier (company of where we purchased our probes) and McMaster-Carr (Keep in mind that these prices may change):

Step 3: Components

The image below illustrates where the components were used in order to integrate the ECO-SUB. Figures 1 to 10 corresponds to items 1 to 10 from the previous Table.

Step 4: Holes and Liquid Tight Conduit Fittings

Take the clear acrylic discs and drill four 1/2" diameter holes in the disc, this allows the," Liquid Tight Conduit Fittings, (LTCF)" to be inserted through.

Note: take a measurement of the diameter of the part of the LTCF that will be inserted in the disc, before drilling.

Once the LTCF have been inserted in each of the holes in the acrylic disc, take each probe and inserted it in the opening of the LTCF.

To ensure non leakage you should put some teflon tape around the probes to increase the diameter so when you fit the probes through the LTCF it will be snuff to avoid water from seeping in.

Note that the reason why we chose to used clear acrylic discs is to be able to add in the future a video camera (but this is optional).

Step 5: Placing the Pipe Coupling

Take the clear PVC pipe and slip one of the 4" diameter pipe coupling (McMaster-Carr) on one end of the pipe. The open end of the clear PVC pipe will allow, the entrance of the data collecting device which will be connected to the probes that was inserted through the LTCF. After one coupling is situated firmly around the clear PVC pipe,
take a hose clamp and slip the clamp around on the coupling that is already situated around the clear PVC pipe. There should be a grove imprinted on the coupling that will allow the proper fitting of the clamp. Make sure that the clamp is nested around this grove and is aligned to the perimeter of the acrylic disc located inside the pipe coupling.

Then take a flat-head screw driver and begin to tighten the clamp until the coupling is situated properly (REMEMBER TWIST TO THE RIGHT TO TIGHTEN!)

Repeat this process again for the second grove imprinted on the same coupling. When the clamps are properly tighten the coupling should not lead to any leakages.

Step 6: Data Logger

Obtain a data collecting device (also known as data logger) with 4 AA batteries and the necessary test probes. After acquiring the data logger and test probes, connect probes into appropriate ports on the data logger and place the data logger inside the clear PVC pipe. Slip on the second pipe coupling and use the hose clamp to tighten appropriately using a flat-head screwdriver.

Step 7: Deployment

Tie a rope and now is ready for deployment and have fun.

To test for any leaks go to our nearest pool and submerge the device. Be sure that your submarine is heavy enough to sink so you don't have to push it down in the water, a mistakes we learned the hard way!

For good heavy objects, we suggest you purchase some lead shots from a local sporting goods store. Then place it in the submarine to have a even distribution so that the whole submarine submerges in an evenly fashion.

Happy building and testing! if you guys have any suggestions or advice please feel free to comment on our instructables.

This has been brought to you by the members of the ECO-SUB team, a Research Undergraduate Experience Summer 2007 at Cal State University Los Angeles and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Credits go to
Joel H
Antonino M
Pam P
Corry Y
Sam L
Jeff M
Victor M
Crist K
Darrell G
and the National Science Foundation.

Step 8: Pictures of Our Submarine and Testing

Here are some pictures of our submarine and places where we tested our submarine! Also attached to this page is a copy of our research paper we wrote about building the submarine and the results from our testing. Please Enjoy!!!

Areas we deployed our submarine for testing, if you want to try out some testing you should consider these following sites:

1) Ballona Wetlands 303 Culver Blvd, Playa del Rey, CA

Please contact
Friends of Ballona Wetlands
Kelly Rose, Programs Director
(310) 739-8613 / 306-5994

2) Tijuana Estuary in San Diego, CA
301 Caspian Way
Imperial Beach, California 91932
Office (619) 575-3613

3) Whittier Narrows Recreation Area
823 Lexington-Gallatin Road
South El Monte, CA 91733



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    21 Discussions

    id like to make a submarine with a camera to patrol our local river

    im 11 too and i thinking of doing somthing simlar by using a camera like a cheap one from vivitar an use leds to give it some light and just put some hobby weights in it and pull it up with rope

    we used to use these data loggers in high school you should make into a real sub. servos propellers that whole thing

    1 reply

    yeah, cuz this isn't a sub at all, it doesen't even go underwater. u should of rather called it "the floating water probe", cuz a sub has propellers and stuff.

    For my ap biology class we are doing a similar thing, except we have to test all of this stuff manualy. Nice Instructable.

    4 replies

    thanks are you using a data loggers and probes to test the water? Where are you planning to test your instruments? We went to a nearby river in Los Angeles and also an Estuary in Playa del Rey. Good luck on your AP bio class, I took it in 10th grade it was really fun! -Pam

    We use simple digital thermommeters and a digital pH tester. We use chemicals to titrate the water to test for dissolved oxygen. We also take a sample of water and incubate it to test for fecal coliform (glows under black light). Another thing we do is collect benthics (bugs, snails, etc) and use them as a benchmark of stream health. Me and my friend Rami are currently testing the little tesuqe creek in Hyde memorial park in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I'm currently in 10th grade (16 in december) and taking it with a bunch of juniors and seniors. Its a great class. I cant belive I'm saying this, but It was actually a good thing they cancelled my ap Chem class! Thanks for the support- maybe I'll build one of these to use with the logger pros and my ti-84. Keep up the good work. As you can see in the pics we don't have much water in NM -especially for a minnesotan like me!

    IMG_7430.JPG you currently live in NM or are you just staying there? My best friend whom i met at princeton summer school lives in Minnesota, it's an awesome state! =) Although it is pretty chilly in the winter!

    Yeah our rivers in Los Angeles are pretty dried up too because of the little rainfall we received last year, not to mention there is a water crisis too.

    There is another team who is working on this submarine and they are trying to install a propulsion cable crawler system, it sounds neat, I can't wait till the outcome!

    wow..AP chem canceled sounds great! haha I avoided Chem in HS!

    Good luck with everything too, it would be cool if you can show me your results when you get them!

    I recently moved to NM (august 20, 07), but before that I had been living in Minnesota my whole life (over 15.5 yrs). Minnesota is awesome, and people think I'm weird when I say this, but I love the cold! (thats why I hate nm). This river (creek) is almost always this low (what did you expect, its NM). I think if I have the time and resources (most of my electronics are in MN:( ) , I might just make a little box that I could strap to a tree near the river, have a pipe sticking down into the river with probes, and have it send all the data back to my house wirelessly, (or figure out a way to have it store all the data) My results 11/03/07 3 deg. C 7.52 pH 8.5ppm dissolved Oxygen Pollution: PTI index of 2 (very good) EPT richness 58.33 (fair -skewed because of water temp) Taxa richness of 5 (poor -small sample size skewed results) No fecal coliform If you want more, I could send you the whole report Good luck! Overall health of stream -Good

    wow you're 11 and starting to build your own submarines! thats great. Well we got our funding through a grant so we basically could buy whatever we wanted! I want to see your instructable one day! -Pam

    How do you get the probes to talk to the datalogger? What software would you use? Does the datalogger automatically detect and record the data from the probes right out of the box? This part is important and which I don't understand. Thanks.

    2 replies

    Once you put the batteries in the datalogger and connect the probes into the datalogger ports, the datalogger will automatically recognize that there are probes. You need to get an interface to see the data when you collect it, such as a palm pilot or a TI-89 calculator. We drilled holes for a cable to come out, a USB cable, which connects to a laptop so you can see the data in real time. The software we used was, Logger Pro 3.5 which came with our probes and datalogger from the company, VERNIER. The datalogger will only recognize the probes if it has batteries. Beware the batteries do run out fast, we realized the 4 AA batteries only lasted one day.

    The trick is that USB is only good for about 3 meters, unless you add extenders which would need their own waterproofing. There's a good chance that this USB device would work with a USB device server, so you could use Ethernet, which is good for 100 meters plus. You'd have basic hull-crush concerns before reaching that depth. :)

    Very Cool. I hand the same idea once. I wanted to use the left over transparent pvc from my spud gun to make this same thing. Great instructable!

    2 replies

    Wow.. we had to purchase our transparent PVC from Mcmaster-Carr which was a little bit pricy. Although it was worth it because its neat to see our datalogger inside our submarine or we could watch for potential leaks! Good Luck & have fun!! -Pam

    Yeah I bought mine from Mcmaster-Carr too. My dad has the same user image on film. He is a nero radiologists.

    Thanks the Environment is very important. Plus we talked to Department of Water and Power and they don't even have the same kinds of device, which made us kind of iffy because we don't know what we're drinking in our water! So its great for environmental justice! Good Luck! I hope you enjoy building the submarine! -Pam

    how deep are these deployed? your configuration looks great for 5m depth, not so good for 25m. otherwise looks like a good simple & reconfigurable design.