Dr. Ryan Smith

Dr. Ryan Smith
Associate Professor of Physics & Engineering


  • Robotics
  • Autonomous underwater vehicles
  • Control and planning
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Aquatic ecosystems
  • Nonlinear dynamics
  • Single and multi-robot systems
  • Geometric control theory
  • Ocean modeling


  • Ph.D., Ocean and Resources Engineering, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2008
  • M.A., Mathematics, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2002
  • B.S., Mathematics and Engineering Physics, Miami University, 1998


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Dr. Ryan Smith is available to comment on topics related to areas of interest or expertise. If you need further assistance, contact Public Affairs at 970-247-7401 or by email.

About Dr. Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith is an Associate Professor of Physics and Engineering at Fort Lewis College. He joined the college in 2013 from Queensland University of Technology. Previously, he was a postdoctoral research assistant at the Robotic Embedded Systems Laboratory at the University of Southern California. Dr. Smith is a roboticist specializing in control theory and path planning for autonomous underwater vehicles. In his work, he develops enabling technologies that measure, monitor and assess the condition of aquatic ecosystems. While at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Dr. Smith helped develop two educational robotics programs for children, Robo-Nemo and STOMP@HI Aquabotica, which are still in existence today. Dr. Smith presents his research at professional robotics and engineering conferences around the country and has published papers in a variety of journals, including the Journal of Oceanic Engineering, the Journal of Field Robotics and the International Journal of Robotics Research.

Dr. Smith received the Byron Dare Junior Faculty Award at Fort Lewis College for 2013-14. He is currently funded by the National Science Foundation’s Science Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) Talent Expansion Program to guide early undergraduate research projects on autonomous aquatic vehicles.

Grant Awards

Dr. Smith received a $392,140 award from the National Science Foundation for “Major Research Instrumentation: Acquisition of a Heterogeneous Networked Instrument for Aquatic Exploration and Intelligent Sampling."

Dr. Ryan Smith was awarded $35,000 over three years from the City of Durango for “Persistent Robotic Monitoring of Rogers Reservoir.”

Dr. Smith was awarded $10,000 from the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society for “Development of an Underwater Robotics Research Training Program.”

Dr. Smith received a $20,000 grant award from the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society for “Summer School on Marine Robotics.”

In the Media


The wave glider is an autonomous surface vehicle that harnesses wave energy for locomotion. This vehicle has a demonstrated endurance of much greater than one year at sea, as shown through the autonomous crossing the Pacific Ocean. The authors developed Gaussian process models to predict the velocity of the wave glider based on measured or predicted wave height and period.

Dr. Smith Explains the Project

”One of the challenges with relying solely on a renewable energy source for locomotion is that there is no direct control on the speed of the vehicle. Variability in wave height and wave period governs vehicle speed, making it difficult to control how fast the vehicle will/should be traveling at a given time. In this work, we developed Gaussian process models to predict the velocity of the wave glider based on measured or predicted wave height and period. If we can predict the vehicle’s behavior given the current environmental parameters, we can determine when the vehicle should arrive at a certain location, and automatically detect if the vehicle is operating normally or has malfunctioned.”


Click to view a complete list of Dr. Smith's publications.

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