Robotic QB: How Iowa alumni are evolving football training technology

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Some University of Iowa alumni are updating football practice equipment in a unique way, applying new technologies to help players train. 

It’s a robot that’s part quarterback, part punter. It’s name is The Seeker — a product that’s the brainchild of the company Monarc Sport.

“It was time to bring football into the 21st century, so we knew we had a real opportunity and that no one was doing it quite yet,” said Sawyer Theisen, director of sales at Monarc. “It’s no wasted reps. It puts the ball there the first time and every time.”

The Seeker uses positioning technology from sideline sensors and a remote tracker to deliver balls to an athlete. 

“This is the first time that athletes have ever been able to train alone,” Theisen said. “They’ve never been able to can go out by themselves and be tracked and execute a plethora of drills.” 

It can also operate like your standard jugs machine, but with upgrades for accuracy.

“You’ll actually be shown a virtual grid of the football field,” Theisen said. “You tap where you put the machine and then you tap where you want the ball to go. The machine makes the necessary adjustments.” 

You might expect a product like The Seeker to be developed in Silicon Valley versus Iowa City. But the Hawkeyes football program and Ben Hansen were instrumental in turning it from a concept into a product in just three short years. 

“An email came across to myself and it was a student at Iowa,” Hansen said. “The funny thing is now looking back on it…I almost deleted it.”

Hansen agreed to let the students use the football facility for testing, because of the Iowa connection.

Yard-by-yard, The Seeker was developed.

“Literally would be out on the field here with this tiny little prototype. They’d fire it off and mark something down,” said Hansen, Iowa assistant director of football operations. “What’s nice about the technology is they can instantly do it. It’s easy changes and corrections. They’re able to kind of take that feedback and create results with it.”

With the testing nearly complete, football practice around the country might soon look a lot different because of the ingenuity from a group of native Hawkeyes. Three of the five founding members of Monarc graduated from Iowa, with the other two being Northwestern University graduates.

“I’m not surprised just because of what the state of Iowa produces in terms of people and their innovativeness. It’s just neat that these guys took the idea and took it to the next level,” Hansen said.  

After eight prototypes, the ninth and final version of the product is the one Monarc plans to go to market with later this year. 

“Being from Dubuque, Iowa, born and raised like most of our team…we’re fully Midwest is the best, deep down, and so it means a lot having the support from these local teams and the hometown school,” Theisen said. 

For more Hawkeyes coverage, follow @AdamJRossow and @HawkeyeHQ on Twitter and Facebook.

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DateOpponentTime/result
8/31/19Miami (Ohio)6:30 p.m.
9/7/19Rutgers11 a.m.
9/14/19at Iowa State3 p.m.
9/28/19Middle Tenn. St.TBA
10/5/19at Michigan11 a.m.
10/12/19Penn StateTBA
10/19/19Purdue11 a.m.
10/26/19at Northwestern11 a.m.
11/9/19at WisconsinTBA
11/16/19MinnesotaTBA
11/23/19IllinoisTBA
11/29/19at Nebraska1:30 p.m.

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