Harnessing the ingenuity, determination and comradery of University of Iowa students, the newly founded Iowa Marine Autonomous Racing Club (IMARC) will be challenging students from across the world in an autonomous, robotic boat competition June 20-25 in South Daytona, Florida.

The multidisciplinary student club, based in the UI College of Engineering, is raising funds through the UI crowdfunding platform, GOLDrush, to cover material and travel expenses for the “RoboBoat” competition. To donate, visit: https://goldrush.uiowa.edu/imarc

“This is IMARCs first year as a student organization so we are building from the ground up this year,” said Grace Edwards, a sophomore mechanical engineering major and Winfield, Iowa-native. “Between the costs for building the boat, prototyping, and being able to send people to Florida for the competition, we need around $5000. We are really excited for this campaign to help with all these costs. This will also help us keep our club going in the upcoming years in addition to making our boat a competitive one.”

The Office of Naval Research and the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International sponsors the RoboBoat competition. Teams are scored based on thrust to weight ratio, basic navigation, obstacle avoidance, automated docking, acoustic beacon location and secondary vehicle launch. The behaviors demonstrated by the boats mimic tasks that are being developed for coastal surveillance, port security and other types of oceanographic operations.

IMARC is unique in that they recruit students of all majors and skill levels from across the university. According to IMARC treasurer Harley Waldstien, roughly 25 percent of IMARC members are not engineers. Waldstein himself is a math and computer science major, but was drawn to IMARC because he enjoyed participating in a drone building club in his Council Bluffs high school. In addition to exercising programming skills, Waldstein has gained valuable leadership and training experience through his role as head of the IMARC RoboBoat software committee.

“I talk about what people’s attitudes should be when they are approaching problems that they don’t understand how to solve,” explained Waldstein. “I suggest to students ways they can solve the problem that are beneficial in the long term. I try to set the overall solution to the technical problem that we’re facing.”

For the RoboBoat competition, the IMARC team also is required to document their journey leading to the competition with a journal paper, building a website, creating a video and preparing a presentation. Thus, Waldstein said, they are actively recruiting business and cinematic arts majors.

“I am amazed at the commitment of the officers and members of IMARC, which goes far beyond simply constructing the boat,” said IMARC faculty advisor James Buchholz, associate professor in the UI Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. “As a brand new organization, the students have had to establish their constitution and protocols for getting things done, and to organize into smaller collaborative working groups in order to come up with viable solutions to the technical challenges they face. Since they had to build the boat from essentially nothing this year, fundraising has been critical, for both model construction and travel to the conference.”

Buchholz added that IMARC is poised to make an even broader contribution to the university as a whole: first by providing visibility for newly established undergraduate certificate program in naval hydrodynamics. Second as a positive model of a collaborative learning community, which will translate well into the new state-of-the-art laboratory for inquiry-driven education and collaborative learning in fluid mechanics and related areas, to be housed in the annex to the Seamans Center currently under construction.

Since launching in November 2016, GOLDrush has galvanized campus projects including an initiative to improve health care access to the Johnson County Congolese population, launch a UI College of Nursing-based app that distracts pediatric patients from anxiety-producing needles, and provide funds to support a new exhibit for the famous UI Natural History Museum lions.

Additionally, GOLDrush recently fully funded an $8,000 documentary film project about the eight-hour inauguration of the Klais Organ in the Voxman Music Building, titled Sorabji in Iowa.

This latest project marks the first time that a GOLDrush crowdfunding effort is open to a UI student group. Other UI students who are interested in learning more about crowdfunding through GOLDrush should contact Theresa Jubert at theresa-jubert@uiowa.edu.

The University of Iowa Foundation and Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development are looking for future GOLDrush projects that have a compelling story, a reasonable dollar goal and a team of individuals that will share the campaign with their personal network of friends, colleagues, family members and other potential donors. Project proposals may be submitted through the online GOLDrush crowdfunding application.

The University of Iowa Foundation’s mission is to advance the University of Iowa and fulfill the aspirations of those it serves. The university’s dedicated contributors fund a broad array of needs, from student scholarships, breakthrough research and life-changing health care to innovative facilities, community outreach and global education. More at www.uifoundation.org and on Twitter: @givetoiowa.

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development provides resources and support to researchers and scholars at the University of Iowa and to businesses across Iowa with the goal of forging new frontiers of discovery and innovation and promoting a culture of creativity that benefits the campus, the state, and the world. More at http://research.uiowa.edu, and on Twitter: @DaretoDiscover.