Imagining Tomorrow’s Ships: Navatek & URI

URI President David M. Dooley and Navatek CEO Martin Kao sign a memorandum of understanding.

One month after the opening of the Business Engagement Center in the fall of 2013, ocean technology firm Navatek, Ltd. announced the opening of its first East Coast office in South Kingstown. It is easy to spot University of Rhode Island engineering alumni—half the staff graduated from the University with engineering degrees.

“We chose South Kingstown as our East Coast home in large part for its proximity to the University of Rhode Island,” Navatek Chief Scientist David Kring said. “We’re eager to collaborate with the University to develop a future workforce and a continuing pipeline of new ideas valuable to the defense and alternative energy sectors.”

When it opened its Rhode Island office, Navatek hired eight URI engineering graduates and launched a paid internship program for URI engineering students. The naval and renewable energy research company and URI formalized the partnership during an event in fall 2013.

“Our partnership with Navatek provides real-world, realistic and challenging learning opportunities for students; innovative research possibilities; and another strong relationship with private industry,” says URI President David Dooley.

Among the recent hires from this partnership is Engineer Lauren Schamback, who works on cutting-edge ship design software. Schamback majored in ocean engineering and Spanish through the International Engineering Program, as well as minored in mathematics. Lauren came to URI from Brielle, New Jersey, and learned about the opportunity at Navatek through one of her URI professors in ocean engineering, Dr. Stephan Grilli.

URI alum Lauren Schamback (top row, center) and fellow engineering graduates hired by Navatek for their new South Kingstown location.

“Prior to that I had never heard of the company, probably because it’s headquartered in Hawaii and I was focusing on searching for jobs in New England,” she says. “Dr. Grilli informed me that Navatek was opening up a new Rhode Island-based office and that the company was involved in a lot of research in hydrodynamics and computational fluid dynamics, and that got me interested.”

Ocean engineering Professor Stephan Grilli was instrumental in arranging the partnership with Navatek based on his connections with the company. “I envision many benefits,” he says. “Our program trains students in skills that Navatek needs and our research interests nicely complement each other. Plus, having company mentors present in the classroom is a beneficial experience for our students.”

Schambach concurs, and feels that her experience at URI, particularly her affiliation with the International Engineering Program, has provided her with incredibly useful skills that have translated into her career.

“Being in the International Engineering Program at URI was a truly amazing experience,” says Schamback. “By studying engineering as well as a language, I gained not only useful problem-solving skills, but also communication skills. Learning doesn’t just stop when you leave the classroom and I think that the technical knowledge that I got from URI has given me a great base that I have been building off of this past year at Navatek.”