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Foundation Degree in Marine Autonomous Vehicles

Robert, a marine systems engineer at Blue Ocean Marine Tech Systems, has had an exciting journey in the maritime industry and recently got to share it with Her Majesty, The Queen!  

Starting with a premature attempt at higher education at the University of Plymouth in 1996, Robert felt out of place, recognising his need for more practical experience and maturity. Deciding on an alternative path, Robert joined the Royal Navy in 2000 as a non-graduate entry. Over the next 16 years, Robert carved out a niche for himself, specialising in hydrography, forecasting, fleet navigation, surveying, and notably, autonomous underwater vehicles. 

His distinguished military career paved the way for him to become a hydrographic Royal Navy reservist and a freelance offline data processor for hydrographic surveys, before settling into his current role as a Marine Systems Engineer at Blue Ocean Marine Tech Systems.

Despite his extensive experience, Robert’s thirst for knowledge drew him to the Foundation Degree in Marine Autonomous Vehicles at City College Plymouth. Not only unique in its content, the course was also the only one of its kind in the country offering such a specialised curriculum. The part-time degree has allowed him to balance his studies with his professional responsibilities at Blue Ocean, attending classes one day a week. His coursework covered crucial areas such as mechatronics, software development, naval architecture and object-oriented programming.

“The degree directly tied into my role at work – I prepare and maintain unmanned underwater vehicles in my day-to-day, while working on new procedures in the industry, so I knew that the degree was a good opportunity for me. I love studying and I knew I wanted to continue learning, so doing this alongside my job was perfect for me.”

It was Robert’s work in his degree that transported him to Buckingham Place! Robert  was invited to join College staff when the Principal was presented with the Queen’s Anniversary Prize at Buckingham Palace. The highlight of his journey was undoubtedly the conversation with Her Majesty during the awards ceremony. Her Majesty’s interest in the nuances of the marine industry reflected the significance of his work, bridging the gap between royal recognition and technological innovation. 

“I think I babbled like an idiot when I spoke to the Queen! It was brilliant to meet her and chat to her in this kind of setting, surrounded by so many people who have achieved some amazing things.”

“It was so impressive to see City College Plymouth recognised alongside some names in education, and universities, like Cambridge and Aberystwyth. It was amazing to see!”

For students looking to follow in Robert’s footsteps, his advice is “explore anything and everything that you enjoy and take every opportunity to put yourself out there. Most importantly, if you make a mistake, try again. That’s what I learnt and it got me here!”