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Students build 30-foot submarine installation

Powell High School Principal Jim Kuhn, left, breaks a confetti-filled bottle for the christening ceremony of the U307, PHSS Panther, a roughly 30-foot submarine created by students on Feb. 24 in Powell.

POWELL — It’s rare to see a submarine in Wyoming — especially one suspended in mid-air.

A roughly 30-foot submarine is the latest major art project at Powell High School. Dozens gathered on Feb. 24 to officially christen the submarine, named the U307, PHSS Panther.

“It’s amazing what went into it,” said Jim Gilman, PHS art teacher.

More than 80 students worked on the project from August through February.

It’s the fifth large-scale installation project PHS students have created in recent years. Lessons learned during last year’s project, a 35-foot dragon, helped with this year’s submarine.

“Students had asked to build a submarine in previous years, but without the knowledge gained by making the dragon’s ribs, this would not have been possible,” Gilman said.

Students created the submarine in two sections using plywood ribs, two-by-four main beams and one-by-two substructure. They used drawing board for the skin, which proved to be quite a challenge.

Gilman said the skin “was a totally new concept,” he said.

“Getting the paper on was probably the toughest part of the whole project,” said Jake Gallagher, a senior art student.

“Especially on the curvature,” added Robbie Burke, another senior.

He said students tried different tactics to make it look right, spraying the paper with water so they could bend it.

“We talked about using canvas, but it wouldn’t hold its shape,” said Ty Linebaugh, also a senior.

The PHSS Panther is modeled after the U-96, a German U-boat from World War II made famous in the book and movie “Das Boot.”

To get the design right, students looked at multiple photos and also downloaded blueprints from the Internet.

“Students also used a small plastic model for some details and dimensions,” Gilman said.

A core group of students — Gallagher, Burke, Linebaugh, Cole Catlin, Tanner Eller, Chase Lundberg, Trey Ouellette and Blaze Flores — worked on the submarine every day, Gilman said.

The ship measures 30 feet, 2 inches long and 34 inches wide. It is more than 4 feet tall at the conning tower.

“The students and I worked out the equation to use for the scaling, then measured the blueprints to find the correct dimension for the model,” said Gilman. “Thanks to our math department, several of the students had strong math skills and made the job pretty easy.”

While art students took the lead on the submarine, other PHS departments also helped.

“It was a whole school project, and I think it’s pretty neat when we can do something like this,” said Jim Kuhn, PHS principal.

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Woodworking students helped with the ship’s ribbing.

“The welding department helped to produce the railings on the submarine, as well as the very ingenious four clamping rings to hold the weight of the structure once it was suspended,” Gilman said.

PHS robotics students Rhett Pimentel, Brett Gilman and Mikel Petersen teamed up to develop and install solar-powered propellers, he said. Robotics students also worked on a motion-activated sound system that will make diving sounds, “giving the model another level of authenticity,” Jim Gilman said.

The school’s head custodian Mike Brooks was instrumental in installing solar panels for power, he added.

Harleigh Riley, a CAD student, designed the gridding pattern that was laser-cut to use as a stencil when painting the submarine’s deck, Gilman said. PHS senior Garrett Musso developed the design for the painted ship’s weathered look.

Looking closely at the ship, you can see how meticulous students were in the ship’s details. The ship is armed with various weaponry replicas and bears a Panther flag.

Some of those details were tedious, such as the hundreds of rivets and little holes for the windows, Catlin said.

As students gathered to dedicate the submarine, Kuhn provided some history about the christening of ships.

“As far as we know, this dates as far back to the days of the Romans and Egyptians, and the Vikings also christened their ships,” he said. “It’s always been a way to bless the sailors and bless the ship and keep it from harm.”

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