Courtesy of Cornell AutoBoat

Cornell AutoBoat Project Team prepare for annual competition by building robot that can complete water based obstacles and tasks.

February 9, 2022

Cornell Autoboat: An Interdisciplinary Community Preparing Future Engineers and Leaders

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From building high-powered rockets to creating solutions for sustainability challenges, each project team pursues its own individual objective using a variety of specialties including computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and business operations. 

In project teams, students have the opportunity to utilize their current skill set and knowledge while gaining new knowledge to contribute to their team’s goals. 

Cornell Autoboat, a small yet rapidly growing team that designs and manufactures autonomous surface vehicles, is one of the 31 project teams at the University. It comprises four essential troupes- electrical, mechanical, computer science, and business. 

Every year, Cornell Autoboat competes in the annual international RoboBoat Competition hosted by RoboNation. This summer, from June 20 to 25, the 15th Annual RoboBoat Competition will take place in Sarasota, Florida. At the competition, teams from all over the globe will design autonomous robotic boats to participate in a challenge course that includes coastal surveillance, port security and other maritime maneuverability. 

Apart from competitions, Autoboat also holds various events throughout the school year, such as social events, fundraisers and outreach opportunities. Team leader Eric McNamara ’22 stated that giving back to the community is the project’s first priority. 

“We hold outreach events at local schools and science centers to demonstrate our project and to inspire the next generation of engineers,” McNamara said. “This month, we will be attending a technical showcase hosted by Ithaca High School.”

Drake Schiller ’23, a current member of the business and computer science sub-teams, explained that he has learned a variety of essential skills during his time on the team, from graphic design to manufacturing. 

“[It’s] more than manageable,” Schiller said. “I’m still able to take all the classes I would have taken — had I not joined Autoboat — without having a lot of additional stress.”

From completing administrative duties to creating computer models, members of Autoboat have extensive options to venture beyond their current interests. 

McNamara said that students hoping to join the team must show passion and enthusiasm for its project.

“We are solving problems that none of us have learned how to solve in the classroom,” McNamara said. “The most successful members are those not with the most experience, but those with the most passion and interest.”

The team’s website boasts about members who have achieved success beyond Autoboat, gaining placement at notable companies such as SpaceX and Apple. 

The team is currently undergoing recruitment this month.