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.
From space to the oceans, Alex Venetiou has spent his tenured career supporting the development of systems and technologies that tap the potential of these great frontiers. Originally from Seattle, Alex was born into a maritime family and spent his free time fishing, outrigger canoe paddling, sailing and windsurfing. His port manager father inspired him to apply to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, to which he was accepted in 1990. Alex graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering Systems and the ambition to go on to graduate school to study control theory. He earned his Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (MSEE) from the University of Southern California (USC).
While at USC, Alex made connections that helped him gain his first post graduate job at The Boeing Company, as a reliability engineer in Huntington Beach, Calif., where he analyzed systems and mitigated problems for the International Space Station. While at Boeing, he also worked on the Delta IV launch vehicle and Maui Space Surveillance System (MSSS) as an electronics engineer. At MSSS, he broadened his motion control skills to include large optics for telescopes. This experience led Alex to join Lowell Observatory’s Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT) design team in Flagstaff, Ariz., as the senior electrical engineer. In this position, Alex designed, built and tested the electronics and controls systems for a new 4.3-meter telescope in only seven years – a process that can take a decade or more with larger telescopes.
“DCT gave me the opportunity to see all phases of the telescope’s development, from concept to completion, an experience that continues to serve me today,” said Alex.
In 2013, he relocated to the East Coast for a Senior Systems Engineer position at L3 Technologies, in Wilmington, Mass. Over the course of five years he was promoted to the position of systems engineering manager and served as a technical lead for another specialized space telescope.
Then, in 2019, a recruiter approached Alex with an offer to interview for Sea Machines as a lead systems engineer. He was immediately drawn to the fact that the position was a match for both his control theory and maritime backgrounds. Soon after, Sea Machines offered him the job.
With help from his systems engineering team, Alex leads the development of the hardware portion of Sea Machines’ products. He also interacts with customers and develops interfaces for their vessels, which allows Sea Machines’ technology to control everything from propulsion and steering systems to unique payloads, such as marine survey sonars or spill response boom arms.
A year later, Alex was promoted to Sea Machines’ director of engineering. Now, Alex leads the software and hardware engineering teams in the development of industry-leading, autonomous-command and remote-helm control systems for commercial marine vessels.
“One of the best parts about working for Sea Machines is being out on the water aboard the boats. I really enjoy the team. It’s comprised of a group of talented engineers who work well together,” he said.
Alex looks forward to honing his leadership and watching his team thrive with the company.
“Sea Machines is one of the lead autonomous systems in our industry,” he said. “Clients have tested our systems against others, and they prefer ours, which is gratifying. It is exciting to develop a unique system – an ‘autonomy in a box,’ retro-fit option. No one else does what we do.”
A Boston native, Lauren Lamm grew up hearing stories of her father’s U.S. Coast Guard career. While in high school, Lamm attended a Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) program at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) and knew her career would follow in his footsteps.
“I realized then that I didn’t want a traditional desk job,” Lamm said. “The STEM program at Mass Maritime exposed me to some aspects of ship life, from maintenance to safety. It was exciting.”
After graduation, that passion inspired her to enroll at MMA, to which she was accepted. It was during her freshman MMA Sea Term that she reaffirmed her passion for bridge navigation aboard ships. Her four-year stint at the academy began as a marine transportation major and member of the crew team, and ended as regimental training and retention officer, with sea-going experience as a deck cadet aboard a Maersk Line car carrier. While still enrolled at the academy, she met her husband (a fellow mariner-in-training) and earned her 3rd Mate Unlimited Tonnage license, an accreditation that helped her land her first job after graduation in 2013, sailing for Otto Candies.
As she gained experience on the bridge with Otto Candies, she also upgraded her license to a Master Unlimited Tonnage upon Oceans and began to take an interest in marine autonomy.
“I was originally attracted to autonomy as a way to help avoid human error in our industry,” she said. “Now, I also view it as a tool that will make the marine sector safer and more efficient. While the industry has been slow to change, it’s obvious this is the direction it’s going. I view autonomous marine technology like dynamic positioning (DP) was viewed 20 years ago. Back then, it seemed foreign to mariners, but now people rely on it and it has added so much value. It’s just a matter of time before our systems are embedded in maritime operations, helping to make everything smoother.”
In July 2018, she followed her new interest in emerging marine technology and joined Sea Machines as a vessel test lead. The job now lets her use the company’s SM series of products for commercial vessels and provide recommendations from the mariner’s perspective that make them easier to use and more intuitive.
“Sea Machines considers me the voice of the customer,” Lamm said, referring to the mariners who use Sea Machines products. “I love being out on the water putting our products to the test so we can make improvements. I take this responsibility seriously and I enjoy showing the industry that this high-end technology is easy to use and integrates fully with vessels. I know the work I’m doing is going to help create a safer environment for mariners to operate in.”
Lamm is a founding member of the Northeast Chapter of the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) and is an avid runner and cyclist, including participation in the 2015 and 2018 Pan Mass Challenge and 2019 Boston Marathon. Her husband currently works as a mariner in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
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.”