May 29, 2013 at 1:57 PM ET
An 18-year-old high school student has built a submarine that he can dive in out of parts he found lying around his parents' New Jersey summer home and ordered off the Internet.
"It is just generally what I do," Justin Beckerman, who starts his senior year next fall at West Morris Mendham High School in New Jersey, told NBC News. His list of previous accomplishments is equally impressive, ranging from homemade remote-controlled vehicles to artsy mixed-media sculptures.
In the eighth grade, he saw a movie in class about the Mars rover. Intrigued, he went home and built one out of a tripod, cameras, motors, solar panels and other parts. Left outside, it would charge under the sun.
"I could come home after school, pick up the remote and drive it around from inside watching a little TV. That's my version of a Mars rover," Beckerman said.
His father, Ken Beckerman, told NBC News that his son was "was driven at an early age." Over the years, he has supported his son's engineering and design prowess by splitting the costs of parts to teach accounting.
The Beckermans spent about $2,000 to build the nine-foot-long submarine, which Justin Beckerman made out of giant drainage pipes, 10-gallon water tanks, an array of pumps and hoses, more than 2,000 feet of electrical wiring, and 200 watts of LED lighting.
A plexiglass dome ordered from a skylight company serves as the hatch and Beckerman's window onto the underwater world.
The submersible is water tight, the student said, and includes an array of safety features such as an apparatus connected to a chamber of fresh air for emergency breathing as well as back-up batteries and pumps to prevent a leak from sinking the submarine.
The batteries hold enough juice for about a two-hour dive, though to date Beckerman has gone under for just an hour, and done so only inside the family boat house on Lake Hopatcong.
"Up until now, Justin has been with us watching over and being very paranoid parents," his father said.
Even that experience, the student said, is "cool," especially hearing the sounds of people on the surface become quiet and muffled as the submarine sinks.
"As you are slowly going down, you hear bubbles and it is kind of cool to just hear a little air or water escaping from spots I designed it to," he said.
Once all the safety checks on the submarine are complete, Beckerman plans to dive around near the shoreline. He's particularly interested in a pair of cannons thought to have sunk in front of his neighbor's house.
He also plans to add more devices to the submarine, including cameras and the capability to stream real-time images to shore, a robotic arm to collect things, and a cage to hold them.
"I bet there are a lot of productive things I can do," he said.
John Roach is a contributing writer for NBC News. To learn more about him, visit his website.