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The five members of the Electric Boat Team stand behind their electric boat design and give thumbs up with Pohick Bay in the background.
The Electric Boat Racing Team members designed a 6-foot catamaran-style hull, named “12th Volt” after the 12th Man. | Image: Courtesy of James Frizzell and David Moulton
The Texas A&M University Electric Boat Racing Team is a student-led engineering design organization that designs, creates and tests electric boats. It starts each year by creating a vessel from scratch, selecting components such as the motor and batteries. The team also drafts and builds the boat hulls in-house.
James Frizzell ‘22, who graduated with bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering, and David Moulton ’22 founded the Electric Boat Racing Team. During their senior year, the two students were members of the Human Powered Submarine team, another ocean engineering student organization. However, Frizzell and Moulton wanted to create something new, and the Texas A&M Electric Boat Racing Team was born.
This summer, the five-member team participated in the national 2022 Promoting Electric Propulsion (PEP) competition for the first time and took first place with their 6-foot boat “12th Volt” in the unmanned category.
The Electric Boat Racing Team members designed a 6-foot catamaran-style hull named “12th Volt” after the 12th Man. | Video: Courtesy of James Frizzell and David Moulton
The PEP for Small Craft is an annual program hosted by the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE) that empowers students with the knowledge to design and safely construct an electric-powered boat through online learning, industry mentorship and grants. College teams can then race their completed boats during a summer competition in Virginia. Solar, wind and human-powered entries are not allowed. Instead, teams can only use batteries to power their boats, which are tested on speed and endurance.
The Texas A&M Electric Boat Racing Team rose to the challenge and set to work designing its boat from the ground up. In early September, they began preliminary stages.
The team spent some time — which would prove to be well-invested — deciding upon a hull type. A hull is the body or framework of a vessel that sits in the water. In electric boats, it also holds the various electrical components.
After researching designs and consulting with their PEP advisor, they settled on a catamaran-style hull, which is a multi-hulled vessel with two parallel hulls. Choosing a style with two points of contact in the water would ensure a naturally stable boat that wouldn’t capsize in heavy waves. Additionally, both sides could be equipped with an individual motor and batteries, effectively doubling the boat’s overall power.
“We used 3D printers to make a mold, which we laid sheets of fiberglass in,” said Frizzell. “For many members, this was their first time working with fiberglass and epoxy resin. Forming the first hull was a learning curve for everyone, but we mastered the technique for the second hull. We then used carbon fiber tubing to act as the bridge and connected the hulls.”
“Moulton led more of the initial design phase, since he had more knowledge of electrical systems than I did,” Frizzell said. “I provided what technical knowledge I could and worked as a logistical advisor to ensure that the project moved smoothly and was completed on time.”
By the beginning of the spring semester, they had constructed the main body and had the boat in the water. Moreover, they had achieved motion in the water. Still months out from the competition, the team celebrated its progress by plunging into the next step: strengthening the boat’s hardware.
They spent eight weeks refining the boat’s electrical processes, followed by three weeks of painstakingly correcting mechanical issues. Their precautions and patience paid off on race day — the team arrived at Pohick Bay Regional Park in Virginia feeling calm, collected and confident in 12th Volt’s ability to successfully complete the 5-mile course. 
The Texas A&M Electric Boat Racing Team went on to take first place in the unmanned category and also set a course record of completing the 5-mile course in 17 minutes and 42 seconds.
“The best part of the day for me was when our boat crossed the finish line,” Frizzell said. “That was the moment of relief when all the hard work and hours spent on this project finally paid off.”
Frizzell and Moulton’s goal for the Electric Boat Racing Team is simple — for it to continue a winning legacy.