The shape of water: Engineering student designs system to assist divers

Sam Hoyt '18 combines his passion for engineering and diving
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The sparger system designed by Sam Hoyt '18 includes a vertical stationary compressor on a dolly that is connected to a 240-amp circuit board.
A sparger is an aeration system that is placed on the bottom of the pool directly under the diving board or platform. Air is then released to create a cushion of bubbles for the diver to land in on the water surface.
Sam Hoyt '18 inspects the hoses that are part of the sparger system he designed.
A mechanical engineering major, Sam Hoyt '18 recorded pressure calculations of his sparger system that was part of his senior project.
Sam Hoyt '18 from a meet earlier this season. The Liberty League's Male Diver of the Year, Hoyt has qualified for the 1-and 3-meter NCAA Division III finals at Indiana University in Indianapolis later this month.
Fellow diver Matthew Mintz '18, left, helped Sam Hoyt '18 with his senior project. Both men have qualified for the 1-and 3-meter NCAA Division III finals at Indiana University in Indianapolis later this month. They will be joined by Kerry Kelly ’20, the Liberty League’s Female Swimmer of the Year.
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The shape of water: Engineering student designs system to assist divers


  • The sparger system designed by Sam Hoyt '18 includes a vertical stationary compressor on a dolly that is connected to a 240-amp circuit board.The sparger system designed by Sam Hoyt '18 includes a vertical stationary compressor on a dolly that is connected to a 240-amp circuit board.
  • A sparger is an aeration system that is placed on the bottom of the pool directly under the diving board or platform. Air is then released to create a cushion of bubbles for the diver to land in on the water surface.A sparger is an aeration system that is placed on the bottom of the pool directly under the diving board or platform. Air is then released to create a cushion of bubbles for the diver to land in on the water surface.
  • Sam Hoyt '18 inspects the hoses that are part of the sparger system he designed.Sam Hoyt '18 inspects the hoses that are part of the sparger system he designed.
  • A mechanical engineering major, Sam Hoyt '18 recorded pressure calculations of his sparger system that was part of his senior project.A mechanical engineering major, Sam Hoyt '18 recorded pressure calculations of his sparger system that was part of his senior project.
  • Sam Hoyt '18 from a meet earlier this season. The Liberty League's Male Diver of the Year, Hoyt has qualified for the 1-and 3-meter NCAA Division III finals at Indiana University in Indianapolis later this month. Sam Hoyt '18 from a meet earlier this season. The Liberty League's Male Diver of the Year, Hoyt has qualified for the 1-and 3-meter NCAA Division III finals at Indiana University in Indianapolis later this month.
  • Fellow diver Matthew Mintz '18, left, helped Sam Hoyt '18 with his senior project. Both men have qualified for the 1-and 3-meter NCAA Division III finals at Indiana University in Indianapolis later this month. They will be joined by Kerry Kelly ’20, the Liberty League’s Female Swimmer of the Year. Fellow diver Matthew Mintz '18, left, helped Sam Hoyt '18 with his senior project. Both men have qualified for the 1-and 3-meter NCAA Division III finals at Indiana University in Indianapolis later this month. They will be joined by Kerry Kelly ’20, the Liberty League’s Female Swimmer of the Year.

Sam Hoyt ’18 has a passion for engineering and diving.

So it was only natural for those passions to align for the champion diver’s senior project.

Since last summer, Hoyt has created, built and tested a sparger system at the College’s pool and diving area inside Breazzano Fitness Center.

Often referred to as a bubbler, a sparger is an aeration system that is placed on the bottom of the pool directly under the diving board or platform. Air is then released to create a cushion of bubbles for the diver to land in on the water surface.

“The system makes the impact on the dive softer,” said Hoyt, a mechanical engineering major from Glastonbury, Conn. “This is important because you don’t get hurt as much when you dive, especially if the dive is wrong. Having a sparger also increases the diver’s confidence level. If the ‘smack’ doesn’t hurt as much, you are more willing to try new dives without the risk of getting hurt.”

Hoyt’s diving coach, Jeremy Sagaille ‘15, suggested he design his own sparger for his senior project. Both were familiar with professional spargers used at top natatoriums, especially those which host elite competitions.

“Sam loves diving and brings it every single day in practice,” Sagaille said. “He brings that same relentless attitude to his academics and especially to this project. He has had to do a lot of work in the classroom as well as outside to bring this project to fruition.”

Divers love spargers. But professionally designed and installed systems can cost several hundred thousand dollars. With the help of a $500 student research grant, Hoyt assembled a system for about $2,500. This includes a vertical stationary compressor on a dolly that is connected to a 240-amp circuit board. His best friend and fellow diver, Matthew Mintz ’18, a theater major from Redding, Conn., helped.

As part of his project, Hoyt wanted to learn more about how and why sparger systems work. He investigated the difference between surface tension and the lowering of density of a fixed volume of water. He hoped to understand what increases the deceleration time of a diver aided by a sparger as they enter the water. Using soap to help lower the surface tension of water, Hoyt observed the correlations and relationship between the force of impact and different flow rates, masses, diffuser types and pressure differentials. He used an accelerometer to record data measurements.

“In diving, you have to know how your body works, and how the center of gravity is in relation to moving and going off the board.

“I’ve learned a lot in studying engineering, especially as I’ve taken advanced courses, and it’s helped me in applying what I’ve learned to real life applications.”

In addition to Sagaille, Hoyt credits his advisor, Jeremy Vanderover, visiting assistant professor of mechanical engineering, for his support.

“The best senior projects happen when a student has multiple passions in their life that they bring together, something Sam has readily achieved in his project,” Vanderover said.

Hoyt’s focus now shifts to concluding his stellar diving career at Union with a national championship.

The Liberty League's Male Diver of the Year, Hoyt has qualified for the 1-and 3-meter NCAA Division III finals at Indiana University in Indianapolis later this month. He will be joined by fellow diver Mintz and Kerry Kelly ’20, the Liberty League’s Female Swimmer of the Year. Both also qualified for the finals in their events.

Hoyt has competed in the finals each of his four years at Union. His standing has improved each time. Last year, he finished sixth in the 1-meter and ninth in the 3-meter.

He has a simple goal: “I want to win it all,” he said.

After Union, Hoyt will begin a job as an associate design engineer with aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney at its Middletown, Conn. site.

“Diving has given me a better understanding of engineering and engineering has had a big impact on my diving,” Hoyt said.

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