91 Engineers, 1 Marketer, 7,300 hrs, 1 Human-Powered Submarine

Guest post by Andres Agresot

Andres Agresot, a third-year BCom student, was one of ten students who travelled to the 2018 European International Submarine Races in Gosport, England this July as part of the University of Victoria’s Submarine Racing Club (UVSRC). In their first year competing, UVic students managed to finish in 4th place, while winning the ‘Most Reliable Submarine’ award.

 “At a basic level, marketing is about determining the value of your product or service and communicating that information to customers.” (Canada Business Network)

As a commerce student, I have always been intrigued by the countless opportunities for career development in a field that is so large in scope, and building a human-powered submarine completely broadened my horizons.

The UVic Submarine Racing Club (UVSRC) has been successful primarily because of the value found in a unique multidisciplinary endeavour between students from the faculties of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and business.

Expectation

The UVSRC’s main purpose is to design, build and race a human-powered submarine at the biennial European International Submarine Races – a highly technical world-class competition testing a team’s ability to work cohesively under pressure for prolonged periods of time.

I decided to join the newly created club out of curiosity and with an eagerness to market a project completely outside of my discipline.

In the early stages of the UVSRC’s existence in September 2017, I would have never envisioned coming home from the international competition ten months later as a member of a team ranked fourth in the world. We brought three trophies home with us, and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the strongest teams from around the world.

The president of the UVSRC, Manuel Dussault Gomez, had asked me to create a website for the club in order to attract more sponsors and achieve our financial objectives. We quickly discovered how well marketing and engineering can intertwine. We decided that regardless of how new our club was, we would always portray a professional image.

I soon found myself immersed in a project that not only resonated with my career objectives, but also aligned with my professional beliefs and challenged me to constantly be better.

Collaboration

Working alongside some of the brightest engineering students in Canada was an extraordinary team-building experience.

Despite my lack of expertise in such a technical field, I slowly became acquainted with terminology and concepts that helped me understand the relevance of implementing marketing ideas in support of an applied science project.

From the submarine’s paint job to the elements displayed on the website and the overall portrayal of our project, everyone in the team had input. One of the aspects I valued the most from this experience was the opportunity of having my voice heard while learning from others.

Community Support

The support of our community and corporate partners was crucial to our success throughout this endeavour.

Thanks to the financial and technical support from our platinum sponsors the Babcock International Group, SSI Corporate, and local dive shop Rockfish Divers, we were able to develop an innovative project worthy of international recognition. SSI, for example, provided us with a one-of-a-kind digital twin model of our submarine through the ShipConstructor software, allowing us to digitally present all components of our submarine in a unique way.

The help of our partners right here at UVic was also invaluable, especially the Faculty of Engineering and the UVic Alumni Association, both of which provided us with the perfect platform to launch our project to the public. The support from alumni donors offered a boost in both confidence and finances that helped us succeed.

Building a brand

While this opportunity has allowed me to develop competencies in different areas of my professional and personal life, the core marketing principle I was able to apply is how to develop a brand. Part of the success of this project stems from the team’s ability to translate highly technical information into an exciting, innovative, and enticing undertaking.

Communication was a key element the UVSRC used in enhancing its relationship with stakeholders and the public in general. By decoding key elements of STEM to a non-STEM public we managed to appeal to a greater audience and filled in the gaps for those outside the scope of the project. Slowly, the name of our club became a brand with our central product being our submarine.

From our visual identity to our voice, and even our communication style, everything added to the way people perceived us. We decided to be associated with a unique combination of innovation, teamwork, and thrilling activities like scuba diving and cycling. Our mission became to compete at the International Submarine Races, and our vision to create a community of like-minded individuals.

Tomorrow’s talent

The focus of our marketing strategy and sponsorship prospectus highlighted how students involved in the club are developing skills in multiple areas and becoming stronger candidates for the workforce.

In the short ten months of being active, the UVSRC has created employment opportunities for many of its members at global companies like Babcock International Group, or at the Department of National Defence. When contacting companies in search of sponsorship for our club, we explained our end goal of qualifying to our first International Submarine Race while highlighting the club’s single most valuable aspect: its members.

Understanding the need for more multidisciplinary projects at the post-secondary level is a necessity in this ever-changing world. The UVSRC’s human-powered submarine is more than a purely mechanical endeavour, it is the manifestation of an active collaboration across disciplines and fields.

The exposure we have received from industry and the press is proof of the results a group of individuals can achieve through determination and perseverance. If I had any advice to give to other business students or those involved in the social sciences it would be to not shy away from STEM-related ventures – there are invaluable opportunities for growth and collaboration.

 

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1 Response

  1. Kris Gadareh says:

    Great article!!

    Would you be interested in publishing this article in the UK Institution of Mechanical Engineers (imeche.org) World Bulletin?

    Happy to connect you with the editors at the IMechE. I am an Engineering Consultant and a Fellow of this Institution.

    Best wishes
    Kris