A team of four El Segundo High School (ESHS) engineering students were recently awarded first place in the 45th Annual Robert H. Herndon Memorial Science Competition hosted by The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, Calif.

The competition invites students to identify an engineering problem and then research, design and build a solution, ultimately presenting their solutions and prototypes to two panels of judges comprised of engineers and scientists.

This year, ESHS students Tinh Nguyen, Alison Stosser, Jordan Tritasavit, and Max Zhang, supervised by their ESHS engineering and physics teacher Daniel Horvath, decided to engineer a way to enhance the stealth mode on submarines to help them avoid passive sonar by reducing vibrations; they named their project “The Seahorse.” 

Through their research, they found many sources for vibrations on a submarine, including engine exhaust, auxiliary machinery, diesel engines, generators, the drive motor propeller and even the flow of waves over the hull. The students decided to focus on the vibrations from the engine or the drive motor that are transferred to the propeller shaft. They discovered that the type of clutch used in current submarines causes vibrations that can be detected by passive sonar. The ESHS team’s solution was a contactless clutch that uses an electromagnetic field, which physically disconnects the engine from the propeller and thus significantly reducing vibration allowing the submarine to go undetected by radar.

The Aerospace Corporation invited 79 students from 25 different schools across the country to enter the Herndon Science Competition by submitting a video explaining their projects to the judges, and the ESHS team’s video presentation of “The Seahorse” project earned them first place. For their victory, the team received a trophy and new iPads to use for their studies in college.

ESHS teacher Daniel Horvath, who has supported several winning ESHS teams in this competition in previous years, is extremely proud of his students. “This team used their AP physics, math, engineering, and English skills learned in high school to tackle a real-life problem and find a tangible solution to it through scientific research, data collection, and experimentation,” said Horvath. “They spent countless hours in the Engineering Lab building and collecting data. I am always honored to lead such a great group of students.”

Mr. Horvath was also recently recognized for his dedication to his students. He was selected as the Air Force Association Schriever Chapter’s Teacher of the Year for 2022. The Air Force Association commented on their 2022 Teacher of the Year honoree, “Our chapter is convinced Mr. Horvath’s hard work, outstanding STEM teaching, and dedication to his students add tremendous value to our local community. We were further impressed with his commitment and mentorship in the many challenging STEM competitions that his students participate in.”

View the ESHS students’ “Seahorse” project video presentation here: