Wake Safe

Team Wake Safe was founded by Kolozs Korda and was led by Jonathan Porter. It was founded as a result of a severe injury obtained by Kolozs when he became entangled in a handle while wake boarding and was dragged by the boat. Research into this type of injury, and injuries similar, led to the realization that these injuries are common occurrences while little has been done to prevent them. Product Tow H2O was designed, built and tested with these injuries in mind and the result is a successful release system for injury prevention.


New to wakeboarding, Austin Harris is performing a normal wake to wake jump. In this instance the boat is traveling at 24 MPH and can generate a force exceeding 100 lbf if he were to crash and entangle in the tow rope.

Visit us at: www.towh2o.com


Extreme water sports have been around since most of us can remember but the exact beginning is unknown. The first documented example of a water sport happened in 1922 when a man by the name of Ralph Samuelson strapped his feet to a pair of barrel staves with leather bindings and was pulled using a clothesline.

Since then, water skiing has grown in popularity and expanded to include sports such as wakeboarding, knee boarding, water tubing, and barefoot water skiing. With each new decade the risks taken by riders increase as speeds increase and tricks become more intricate, but safety for these riders has hardly changed since water sports.

In studies conducted by the US Coast Guard, in the year 2011 it was found that 12,173,935 boats were registered in the US and throughout the year there were 758 deaths and 3108 injuries. 23 of the deaths and 572 of the injuries were directly caused during water tow sports, showing that the need for an increase in safety measures is present.




The ME451 and ME452 Mechanical Engineering courses offered by the University of Nevada Reno and the professor which leads it, Professor Emil Geiger, provided Team Wake Safe with the tools necessary to develop a successful and marketable product. The courses taken gave a structured outline of how to design and manufacture a product.

Define the Need

The first was to determine the need. Hundreds of people are either injured or killed during water tow sports each year. The design was focused to eliminate two main causes of those injuries: wrapping of the tow rope around a limb and entanglement in the handle. When these two situations occur, a large force is exerted on the human body and does so quicker than is humanly possible to react to. Using this focus, the need was a injury prevention system which automatically released the rider from the boat during the above stated scenarios.

Goals and Objectives

After the need was decided, the team created engineering goals and objectives. The product was to release above any normal riding forces as to not hinder the rider in any way. The product would need to be small and lightweight; otherwise riders would be unwilling to use it. The product would need to be re-usable and easily re-attachable without the need of extra equipment or components as current methods use. The product would need to be waterproof, durable and reliable in all riding scenarios. Engineering analysis of the forces associated with water sports was used to determine exact values for each of the objectives.

Design Concept Generation

Design concepts were created by each team member using the engineering goals and objectives. Five concepts were created in total and further analysis and tests were used to decide of which concept to move on to manufacturing.


A proof-of-concept was first made to test the concept in real-world application before making a full-scale prototype. The proof-of-concept allowed the team to determine possible problems in the design or in the manufacturing.

Figure 1: Stress analysis to determine durability and check specifications of reliability and re-usability

Figure 2: Disassembled proof of concept device. Only two pins were necessary to prove the concept. Final prototype calls for 4 pins

Final Prototype and Testing

The testing included being able to remain intact during normal riding forces and then release when designed to. Overall, the design concept was successful but testing showed flaws in both design and manufacturing that were corrected before a prototype was built for testing.




Figure 1: Final design of Tow H2­O product. Solidworks representation.

The design behind the release mechanism of the product is based upon friction and spring forces. This allows for a specific release force to be set and varied as desired by varying the spring constant, friction coefficient, and/or the friction incline angle. It also allows for automatic and consistent releasing without having to rely on human reaction time. Once the release force is reached, the system will separate.

Standard handle/tow rope combinations have pre-tied loops for easy attachment of different handles or to shorten or lengthen the distance behind the boat. Tow H2O makes use of these points by using the same knots to attach to either end of the system.

(Example Pictures with Final Prototype)

Figure 2: Normal tow rope for watersports with handle and Tow H2­O attached.

Manufacturing of the product consists of machining a rod and tube of Aluminum 6061-T6 into the several components, except the springs and outer casing. Aluminum 6061-T6 was chosen as the key material for its marine grade, low weight and high structural integrity properties. This metal allows the product to meet all the weight, size and strength specifications needed.




Two tests were done to determine if the theoretical model of the tow release accurately represented what was happening in reality. It was first found that the prototype exceeded the calculated model by 200%. The two tests that were performed on the prototype were as follows:

Force testing

Prototype tested to confirm it will release above normal riding forces

Accuracy testing

To confirm if the product will release at the same force with every release

Impact vs. sustainable force testing

To determine if release capabilities change with the length of time the force is applied to the system


Each test showed promising results. The most interesting results came from the Force testing, were an Instron machine was used to determine the release force the tow release device. Figure 1 below is the plot produced from the Instron machine.

Figure 1: This plot shows that the Tow H2­O released at around 360 lbs. This force far exceeds our projected release force of 102 lbs.

Figure 2: The Instron machine in action, testing the release force of the TowH2O. The device released at around 360 lbf.

Tow H2O Proof of Concept test Video




Team Wake Safe is made up of four members, all of which are Mechanical Engineering students at the University of Nevada Reno. The scope of Team Wake Safe is to design and build safety systems for water sports and was inspired by its founder, Kolozs Korda, when he crashed while wakeboarding and was caught in the handle and dragged by the boat, causing severe trauma to his left arm.

Kolozs Korda

Kolozs Korda has experience and knowledge in Business, sales, and marketing as well as engineering. Kolozs has a BS in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, two years of sales and marketing experience, and five years of leadership and management experience, both in business sales and University organizations. Kolozs has been awarded an Undergraduate Research grant and is a member of multiple professional engineering organizations.

Jonathan Porter

Jonathan Porter has a BS in Mechanical Engineering and has experience in 3D modeling, design, and manufacturing of parts and dynamic systems. He also has management experience from leading several teams working on diverse projects. These qualifications along with his extensive hands-on experience, qualify him to be the Chief Operating Officer and Lead Design Engineer.

Zoe Meneley-Gilbert

Zoe Meneley-Gilbert has a BS in Mechanical Engineering and two years of experience in radio. Zoe spent years in the metal shop as an assistant to a black smith developing skills useful in manufacturing metal products. One summer he worked as a team manager on a construction site and is an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. These experiences added to his teamwork and leadership skills, makes Zoe a good asset to the company and suitable to hold the Chief Marketing Officer and Manufacturing Engineer.

Mark Thomsen

Mark Thomsen has a BS in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Renewable Energy. Mark has leadership experience from being a troop leader in the Scouts and from being the leader of the Nevada Fair Share club at UNR. With sales skills learned from the Cutco sales program and honed from running a computer business he founded. Mark’s love of science and the scientific method make him the ideal choice for running tests for Wake Safe products.