Students Pioneer Underwater Navigation App

Ties that bind alumni to St. Mark’s run deep, especially for one Marksman who knows all about the deep. Victor Vescovo ’84 has been at the forefront of human exploration, most recently completing multiple dives to the deepest points of all seven oceans on Earth. Along the way, Vescovo has turned to St. Mark's students to aid him at the bottom of the sea. This year, Ben Gravel ’22 and Isaac Song ’22 teamed up to develop a computer application to help Vescovo navigate 35,000 feet below the surface. 
“The app cut in half, or more, the time needed to locate the geo-reference lander on the bottom and thus provided more time to actually explore the bottom,” Vescovo said. “It also allowed me to more precisely measure where I was when I began the ascent, which allowed the ship to more easily meet me once I breached the surface.”
The two seniors started this project last spring when Vescovo initially reached out. “Other teams had been over-engineering all sorts of solutions, and none of them worked, so Mr. Vescovo came to us,” Ben said. Through the summer and into the fall, Ben and Isaac developed ideas, refined and tested code, while coordinating closely with Vescovo.
On December 16, 2021, with the aid of the app, Vescovo piloted the submersible Limiting Factor to the floor of the Kermadec Trench in the South Pacific Ocean, becoming the first person to dive all four of the world’s 10,000-meter abysses.
“This is the first time where code that I've written will actually be used and deployed, not just in theory or for an assignment,” said Isaac. “It feels really cool to know that something I worked on is one of the very, very few apps that has ever been launched in those depths.”

In appreciation of the boys’ talents and support, Vescovo said, “They solved a problem that other technologies have had a very difficult time solving. Everyone wanted to just throw more electronics and hardware at the problem and make it work in the deepest parts of the ocean. Sometimes the best solutions are the ones that don't throw money and hardware at a problem but use existing assets in unconventional ways. Well done, gentlemen. Well done.”

This marks the second deployment of a student-designed tool on one of Vescovo's deep sea dives. In 2020, Marksmen designed and built a sediment sampler capable of scooping up bits of the ocean floor while enduring the bone-crushing water pressure nearly seven miles down. 

Before setting his sights beneath the sea, Vescovo became only the 53rd person in history to complete the Explorers Grand Slam, which includes climbing the Seven Summits and skiing to both the North and South Poles. Throughout his adventures, Vescovo has displayed his Lion pride, wearing a St. Mark’s crest on his diving uniform and carrying a St. Mark’s flag to the summit of Mt. Everest and the South Pole.
After graduating from St. Mark’s, Vescovo earned degrees from Stanford University, MIT, and Harvard Business School. He co-founded the private equity firm Insight Equity and spent more than two decades as an operational intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Victor Vescovo is also the 2020 recipient of St. Mark’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.
    • Ben Gravel ’22 and Isaac Song ’22

    • Victor Vescovo ’84 aboard the Limiting Factor

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St. Mark’s School of Texas is a private, nonsectarian college-preparatory boys’ day school for students in grades 1 through 12, located in Dallas, Texas. St. Mark’s aims to prepare young men to assume leadership and responsibility in a competitive and changing world.

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