Sea Machines Robotics is a forward-looking, autonomous technology company that specializes in advanced control technology for workboats and other commercial surface vessels. Based in Boston and operating globally, the company is driven by a crew of mariners, engineers, coders and autonomy scientists.
Behind every great Sea Machines system is a powerhouse team of talented mariners, engineers, coders and autonomy and perception scientists. Here, we invite you to meet some of them.
Originally from Connecticut, and a life-long ocean enthusiast, Sea Machines’ Chris Sotzing originally set out to study biology at Colby College, in Waterville, Maine. While enrolled in his undergraduate program, his interest in studying marine animal behavior evolved into a curiosity about the creation of behavior and he switched to a degree in computer science, focusing on robotics. The moment helped to define his future career, as it allowed him to recognize the opportunity to combine his two passions of engineering and the ocean.
In 2004, after he completed his undergraduate degree, Sotzing relocated to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he earned his Ph.D. in autonomous underwater vehicles from Heriot-Watt University. He remained in Edinburgh until 2017, working for SeeByte – as a software developer for autonomous systems – in positions of increasing responsibility. His most recent position in the United Kingdom was project manager for the Autonomous Inspection Vehicle (AIV) project, which had commercial application in offshore, deep-water inspections.
“I discovered that I really enjoyed not only the development of cutting-edge autonomy technology but also the application of that technology to real world problems,” Sotzing said. “It’s been incredibly fulfilling to see code that I’ve written used to overcome real challenges offshore.”
In 2017, Sotzing relocated to the U.S. to open SeeByte’s Boston office. He held the position until February 2018, when he joined the Boston-based Sea Machines team as director of engineering. Now a valued leader of the Sea Machines team, Sotzing has primary responsibility for ensuring the successful development and deployment of the company’s SM300 and SM200 products, as well as managing the engineering team in Boston.
“It’s rewarding to use my passion for marine engineering and skillset in developing and delivering intuitive, autonomous vessel systems to deliver robust solutions for the company’s commercial marine customers,” Sotzing said. “This is an exciting time to be involved in these types of technology advancements, particularly for surface vessels, and it’s exciting to contribute to a start-up that is growing so steadily.”
A Long Island, NY, native, Frank Marino’s engineering career began in his early years building LEGO sets. As he grew, he took apart cars and other items just to put them back together. This passion for building and fixing later drove Marino to Northeastern University, in Boston, to tandem pursue his B.S. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering, with a concentration in robotics.
“I was drawn to robotics over other engineering specialties because machines are animated. I enjoy building robots with the purpose of completing tasks,” he said.
While in school, he participated in three co-ops. The first allowed him to optimize the efficiency of greenhouse operations using robots. This included managing the mechanical and electrical design for robots to recognize heavy potted plants and move them to designated locations for ideal watering and management.
“Before robots were used, greenhouse labor was manual and expensive. Automation helped the greenhouse reduce costs and increase safety, which was rewarding,” he explained.
The next co-op he participated in was for QinetiQ, where he had the opportunity to use his mechanical engineering expertise to retrofit large vehicles with advanced, remote-control systems.
Marino’s final co-op was for Hydroid, a marine automation company, that helped to connect his engineering passion with his love of the water and recreational boating. There he was tasked with providing mechanical engineering support to the company’s automated underwater vessels. He continued supporting Hydroid for several months after his 2016 graduation from Northeastern.
Then, in January 2017, Marino joined the Sea Machines team as a mechatronics engineer. The job now allows him to work on Sea Machines’ hardware and electrical design integration, and has fused his passions and experience into one package that is fulfilling him in new ways.
“Every boat is like a new puzzle to me,” he said. “And working for a start-up is exciting. What I am building now for Sea Machines is the foundation for future iterations of technology, which will be a more compact and sleeker design. What we’re learning will help us build tomorrow’s products. One day, every boat will have some kind of automation built in, like cars do now. It’s neat to be a part of that.”
When asked what he enjoys most about his career at Sea Machines, he said, “The company is one of the few developing this type of technology. I like that the company’s systems offer robotics solutions that will ultimately solve the challenges of ‘dull, dirty and dangerous’ work, and will help to save lives, keep people healthier and allow companies to be more productive.”
Originally from Quincy, Mass., Marty Cosgrove is a self-described “tinkerer” who is currently using his skills to refurbish a sailboat for he and his family to enjoy. In addition to sailing, Cosgrove enjoys motorcycles, hiking, biking and snow skiing. Clearly an excitement-seeker, he comes by his love of start-ups honestly.
Cosgrove started his engineering career by earning an electrical engineering bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University, in Boston, in 1987. He paid his way through undergrad with freelance software engineering jobs. Later, while working full time, he re-entered school and eventually earned his master’s in computer systems engineering from Northeastern in 2003.
Cosgrove’s experience spans several decades and includes supporting several notable start-ups, including Navic Networks, which developed “pop-up” advertising technology for cable providers and was later acquired by Microsoft; Black-i Robotics, a developer of unmanned ground robots; and Hydroid, a marine automation company. It was his experience at Hydroid, which gave him the chance to merge his interests of software engineering with his love of the water, that eventually led him to Sea Machines.
Drawn to start-ups, Cosgrove accepted the position of senior software engineer at Sea Machines in July 2017. In the position, he now has responsibility for programming the company’s technology systems that allow commercial vessels to operate autonomously.
“I really enjoy automating tasks that are otherwise mind-numbing and repetitive. Those work challenges create situations in which it is easy for humans to make mistakes,” he said. “Automating tasks reduces fatigue and lowers the risk of negative events happening.”
As for the future of his work at Sea Machines, he sees nearly endless applications for it in the marine industry. From water taxis to recreational boats, and commercial craft of all sizes, he says the ability to improve operations with autonomy technology is endless.
And, he’s having fun while doing it. “Start-ups are a blast,” he said. “I love bringing a concept to fruition. This is fast-paced work, which is great because I get to see immediate results.”