‘I Build Submarines’: When Your Job Blows People’s Minds

“The teenage me would probably think I’m one of the coolest people in the world, having the job that I do…. Normal people don’t do stuff like this. But they do.”

Mark Arnott builds submarines for a living. Seven years into the job, and he still gets a buzz telling people what he does.

As head of the electrical department at Nuytco Research, Mark helps to build and develop undersea technology. The Vancouver-based company, founded by Phil Nuytten, is internationally known for its DeepWorker submersibles and the atmospheric dive suit known as the Exosuit. At Nuytco, Mark’s role is twofold:

In the workshop, Mark designs, builds and repairs the submersibles, integrating the electrical equipment into the vehicles. “The most important role for the electrical system is to supply power to the scrubbers. They’re fans that take out carbon dioxide out of the air so we can breathe and put in oxygen. It’s life support so a pilot can live underwater.”

The second part of Mark’s job is field work, where he’s part of the support team, may it be testing a vehicle for a client, doing research work with scientists, or part of the team on set for a movie or documentary. Mark travels around the world to make sure the vehicles operate to plan. He assists in getting the submersibles ready for dives, as well as running the navigation tracking system to monitor where the sub is underwater; and if something was to break, it’s his job to figure out what’s wrong. A lot of the time this work is done at sea, on a ship, for weeks at a time.

“One of the films we’ve been a part of was The Abyss, directed by James Cameron. He used one of our submarines, then dressed it up to fit the atmosphere of the movie … We’ve done documentaries about D-Day and the ships that were sunk. We took down veterans to the site where the ships they were on were bombed.”

It goes to show that electrical engineering can take you absolutely anywhere. As a graduate of Electrical Engineering at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Mark is an example of how the degree can be ticket to a broad spectrum of opportunities.

“You can be part of designing the next smart car or helping design wind turbines or solar panel systems or building submarines … All engineering fields are great. But electrical, I find is always on the forefront or always pushing new boundaries. You’ll never get bored at your job. There’s always something more to learn.”

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