rebelling against low expectations

Justin Beckerman, Age 18: Invents a Working, One-Man Submarine


(CNN) — The submarine’s body may be constructed from drainage pipes and the hatch from a recycled skylight, but according to its 18-year-old inventor, this single-person U-boat can plunge to a depth of 30 feet and has already completed three successful dives.

The Nautilus took high school inventor Justin Beckerman just six months and $2,000 to put together — all while keeping on top of his homework.

“He has been building things since he was two years old,” says his mother, Jess Beckerman. “If we tried to help him we would just get in the way and mess things up.”

The submarine has ballast tanks to maintain its depth and equilibrium; air vents that bring oxygen down from the surface; a functioning PA and a range of emergency systems including back-up batteries, a siren, strobe lights, a breathing apparatus and a pump to fight leaks. The vessel can remain submerged for up to two hours and travels beneath the waves at one and a half miles per hour.

Beckerman says he is going to use it to “explore the lake, see fish and hopefully find a bit of history, like the cannons from my neighbors’ historic house” that, he says, were dumped in the lake during renovations in the 1960s.

When he was younger, Beckerman began by making things out of balloons and string, but as the years went by his inventions grew in scale and complexity. At the age of 12, instead of complaining about having to help with the housework, he developed a remote-controlled car that could mop and vacuum.

Beckerman’s website is a testament to his enormous productivity. It is a menagerie of home-constructed machines including boats, planes, architectural constructions, and prize-winning robots.

The materials he uses in his creations are often technological cast-offs from family and friends, or garbage scavenged from electronics recycling facilities. The Nautilus has regulators and pressure gauges from an old restaurant soda fountain that Beckerman found behind a shopping center. The two main batteries are from a child’s ride-on toy, and its PA speakers are made from an old car stereo.

Beckerman says he decided to build the submarine because “I wanted to see if I could do it. It combined so many different aspects of things that I had worked on in the past.” The Nautilus has the most ambitious wiring system Beckerman has installed since he constructed his tree fort — a veritable forest castle that puts all other tree forts to shame.

Armed with more modern conveniences than many proper homes, the fort has a TV, wall-mounted speakers, desktop computer, air conditioning, shelving, and fluorescent lights. “It has everything a house should have,” says Beckerman, “except a refrigerator and a bathroom.”

Keep Reading –>

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Absolutely incredible! Really, really stunning, what people our age can do if they put their mind to it. I was a little disappointed that this article, and a few others I’ve read here on the Rebelution, have no mention of God or faith, either by the people whom the article is written about or by the article period. Still, this kid has done some outstanding things–and does anyone know where I can get a remote controlled car like the one mentioned in the article? 🙂
    Ok, on a more serious note: Justin Beckerman is a great example of what we can do. Doesn’t matter how old we are, we can do some seriously amazing things! And I love to hear about kids like him, because, even though I’m not quite so smart in the same areas as he is, it’s encouraging to know that there are kids out there who may not even be Christians still doing hard things and using the brains God has given them for greater and better accomplishments. Our generation just seems so consumed with the ‘me’ culture that we live in it’s extremely wearying to see talent and good ideas and passion just go to waste, for whatever reasons. This generation could impact the world in so many ways, you just wouldn’t believe it. And kids like Justin are just smoothing the path before us, they’re helping to lead the way. The same with the young girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban because she was fighting for schools for young women of her culture. I’m very glad to hear that there are so many young people out there doing such amazing things for God. Praise Him! For it is truly a wonderful world He has made, even in all its imperfections. I am truly glad to be serving such a Creator and Savior as He.

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →