Legislators tour UI research facilities


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From the semitrailer truck cab centered in the big white contraption, Rep. Dean Fisher, R-Garwin, peered at the brightly colored projections encircling him, which acted as “distractions” during a driving simulation.

Fisher was in the National Advanced Driving Simulator, getting a behind-the-scenes look at University of Iowa research as part of a tour to encourage economic growth when it comes to research.

The legislators were invited to learn more about what the research being conducted can do for the future of the state of Iowa, as well as how they can support the efforts economically.

In addition to Fisher, Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Cedar Rapids, and Sen. Rita Hart, D-Wheatland, attended.

Daniel Reed, the UI vice president for Research and Economic Development, said this was the inaugural event and something he hopes to see continue in the future.

Legislators visited the Driving Simulator in the UI Research Park and the UI Protolabs.

The Driving Simulator, one of only two in the world, is used to gather research about driver safety, vehicle mobility, and driver distraction.

Omar Ahmad, the director of operations at the simulator, said it has recently been used to gather information about truck drivers, and he hopes tours such as this will encourage the legislators to support more funding.

“The funding can be used to upgrade the simulator to be more realistic and make the research more accurate,” he said.

The legislators also visited the UI Protolabs, which, in a partnership with M.C. Ginsberg, is located above the jewelry store at 110 E. Washington St.

With a 3-D printer and lasers, researchers in the Protolabs are able to create mockups of inventions created by research companies and other groups.

“Here we are able to take our skills and move research forward at no cost to them,” said Mark Ginsberg, the president of M.C. Ginsberg. “Biosciences aren’t just agricultural or medical sciences; they can overlap each other.”

Dvorsky said he is aware of some collaboration with Ginsberg among Iowa legislators.

“We’ve been working with Mark Ginsberg to come up with something to get him some more funding for another 3-D printer and some other things,” he said.

In addition to the National Advanced Driving Simulator and the UI Protolabs, the tour stopped at the Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building and the Wynn Institute for Vision Research, as well attending a lunch/discussion with representatives from the Carver College of Medicine.

Dvorsky said research at the UI presents chances to continue to grow.

“I think … they have good opportunities to move forward,” he said.

He said while he has been to some of the facilities previously, he thinks the tour was a good opportunity to learn more about the UI’s research projects when looking toward the future.

“I think it’s a great tour for other legislators to get a good idea of what actually goes on here at the university,” Dvorsky said. “Both of these concepts … are great opportunities for the state.”

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