Robotic GNOME Laboratory

Marine Robotics Research

Marine Robotics Research Summer School (MRRSS)


The use of underwater robot systems, including Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), and autonomous gliders has become a required tool for a large number of scientific sampling studies in the fields of marine biology, oceanography, and archeology. To fully realize their potential, these robot systems and their related technologies are being innovated in a limited number of research laboratories across the country. However, developing and testing new technology remains cumbersome, time-consuming, and resource intensive. These issues are compounded by the fact that the graduate students developing this technology receive no formal training in the field, have limited access to actual ocean/lake deployments, and graduate from their lab soon after acquiring the necessary skill set. In response to this problem, the PIs of this project propose to launch an annual Graduate Student Training Program in Marine Robotics Research (MRR).


  • Train the next generation of underwater robot engineers and scientists.
  • Cultivate student relationships among MRR labs worldwide.
  • Develop collaborative opportunities for meaningful field deployments that leverage marine robotic assets across multiple international institutions.


During summer 2016, recently accepted and young graduate students attending underwater robotics research labs across the country can apply to participate in a 2-week workshop. This coming summer, the program will be hosted at Harvey Mudd College, CA. The program will include training in the form of a variety of MRR experiences:

  • Lectures – PIs Clark and Smith will provide a Master’s level syllabus on vehicle dynamics, control, state estimation, and planning.
  • Seminars – Speakers and students will be invited to speak about current research projects in MRR.
  • Hands-On Deployments – Students will go through training manuals, plan missions, and deploy a variety of vehicles including ROVs, AUVs, and (ideally) gliders.
  • Culminating Research Experiences – Each student will be assigned an individual research project that will compliment research in their home institution’s lab, but combine to contribute to Clark and Smith’s research. These individual projects will culminate toward the end of the summer with major deployments to collect useful data.

To note, the Program Leaders have established a network of colleagues running MRR labs at Ph.D. granting institutions, as well as archeologists, oceanographers, and marine biologists in need of AUV deployments to collect data.


Participants are required to cover the cost of their transportation to and from the workshop site (2016 - Harvey Mudd College). The cost of the summer school is 500 USD, which covers all food, lodging and transportation during the workshop dates.


A website for the 2-week program can be found here. This site will contain all the lecture materials, detailed course schedule, etc.


A preliminary schedule for the 2-week program can be found here.

Program Leaders:

Dr. Christopher Clark received his Ph.D. in 2004 from Stanford University from the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics with a minor in Computer Science. He has taught at the University of Waterloo, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Princeton University, and now Harvey Mudd College. He has won numerous teaching and research awards including the Princeton University William Kenan Jr. Visiting Professor Award for Distinguished Teaching. His research interests include multi-robot systems with applications in underwater robotics. He has successfully deployed ROVs and AUVs in lakes and coastal regions of the US east and west coastlines, Hawaii, Malta, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and the Arctic. Related to this proposal is his work in developing ROV sonar mapping algorithms for constructing 3D visualizations of underwater tunnels below ancient archeological sites in Malta and Sicily, as well as multi-AUV formation control and estimation techniques for cooperative shark tracking.

Dr. Ryan N. Smith received B.S. degrees in both Mathematics and Engineering Physics from Miami University (Oxford, OH) in 1998, the M.A. degree in Mathematics, and the Ph.D. in Ocean & Resources Engineering from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa (UH) in 2002 and 2008, respectively. Ryan is an alumnus of the Robotics Embedded Systems Laboratory at the University of Southern California (USC). He spent three years as a Lecturer in Robotics in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Currently, Ryan is an Assistant Professor in the Physics and Engineering Department at Fort Lewis College. Over the years, Ryan has conducted research with multiple types of marine robots, from autonomous gliders to large-scale survey platforms, and is internationally-recognized for novel technology-fusion techniques in path planning and control of these vehicles for applications in large-scale ocean and aquatic monitoring. He worked intimately with experts in Physical Oceanography and Marine Biology from USC, ocean modeling experts from the JPL, California Institute of Technology, and world-renowned experts in the field of ocean science from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Current research interests and specialties include nonlinear dynamics, control and coordination of single and multi-robot systems, persistent and adaptive ocean sampling, autonomous underwater vehicles, geometric control on manifolds and ocean modeling. In addition to research, Ryan enjoys engaging with students and the community to promote and discuss the exciting world of robotics. Ryan’s philosophy is to motivate students to explore the world around them through applications and hands-on experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Mentorship has been an ongoing part of Ryan’s career, participating in every capacity in outreach education for more than 12 years, and engaging nearly 10,000 students in robotics education.


Please complete the application form HERE. Also, send a cover letter, resume/CV, and letter of support from the head of your laboratory AS A SINGLE PDF FILE to with the subject line "Marine Robotics Training Program Application - YOUR NAME".