Our Robotics Program Gains a Temporary Home

Ocean Alliance has had a busy spring. The research vessel Odyssey is having a successful campaign in the Gulf of Mexico with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and reconstruction has started on brick buildings A, B and the chimney of our headquarters–the Paint Factory. Our plan remains to put our robotics lab upstairs in building A, but our robotics program is outpacing the readiness of the building. Antonio Bertone to the rescue.

Paint Factory site mapA couple of years ago Iain Kerr met Antonio through a mutual friend. The former Chief Marketing Officer at Puma, and the co-founder and CEO of Kyte & Key, Antonio helped pioneer the use of recycled shipping containers into mobile stores and displays. Iain has always had an interest in shipping containers; there is a hidden global infrastructure that takes containers to every part of the globe including Antarctica. Ultimately Iain hopes that Ocean Alliance can have a small toxicology disaster response laboratory in a small container that could be shipped to any ecological disaster or need at a moment’s notice.

Last week Antonio lent us one of his creations—a custom-built double-wide shipping container complete with A/C, lighting, telephones, and stereo so that we could move forward with our robotics program on-site, even though our new lab space in building A was not yet ready. This container is a perfect fit for our vision of our robotics lab. It is innovative, creative and unique. Last week Dr. Andrew Bennett and four students came up from Olin College, our robotics partner, with a host of different robots that we are developing into research tools above, on, and below the surface of the ocean. They were blown away by the interior space of the container and are already engaged in helping us further develop its capacity.

Olin College robotics students at Ocean AllianceOver the next two weeks we will be setting up the interior of the container and equipping it (with our grant from the Applied Materials Foundation). We plan to have a robotics open house in August, so stay tuned.Drone photo of Ocean Alliance robotics lab