The goal was an ambitious one: Create an underwater, Ironman-inspired jetpack capable of propelling someone through water faster than Michael Phelps on his best day in the pool.
In the process, Ryan Kung and David Shulman, two Silicon Valley engineers behind “Eclectical Engineering” — a YouTube channel dedicated to bringing imaginative contraptions to life — knew they’d be embarking on their most dangerous project to date, a reality that did little to deter the duo.
“In a lot of ways the way we pick these projects is by finding engineering we really want to improve our skill set in,” Shulman, 28, said. “We hadn’t done any projects involving water and wanted to get better with motors.”
Combining battery-powered motors and water is, of course, is a recipe for electrocution. That explains why the two men spent the bulk of their time figuring out how to create a watertight seal for the jetpack’s battery compartment, which contained powerful lithium batteries.
The sealed battery pack was initially tested in one meter of water. That meant the men couldn’t be certain the pack would remain water resistant if the depth, and pressure on the pack, increased.
How did Shulman feel jumping into the water for the first time?
“It was absolutely scary,” he said. “This was really putting your money where your mouth is. I’ve never built a project and then strapped it onto myself before.”
As their finished YouTube video attests, Shulman survived, and the project was a complete success. At top speed, the underwater jetpack clocked in at 6.25 mph, breaking Phelp’s record of 6 mph. The propellers were more powerful than expected, Shulman said, noting that at times it felt like they were “going to pull my arms off.”
The pair — who do most of their DIY engineering on the weekends — estimate they spent about 60 hours and $1,000 to make the jetpack a reality.
They hope to refine the contraption, but they already have another project occupying their imaginations.
“We want to create a launcher that helps you skip rocks easily and a lot further than anyone can by hand,” Shulman said. “We have a backlog of 80 projects, so our problem is not coming up with fun things to do, but finding the time to do them.”