Deep-Sea Dreamer

Winter 2016

Kinnaman DivingBen Kinnaman, MS ’06, was raised in the port town of Morehead City, North Carolina. “I grew up in the water … diving, and surfing, and fishing, and everything else.” Twenty-five years later, Kinnaman’s life is still dedicated to the ocean—even though he lives and works in the mountains of Vermont.

Kinnaman is the founder and CEO of Greensea Systems, a firm that builds control and navigation technologies for unmanned underwater vehicles. Such devices are used in salvage operations, mine detection, and studies of deep-sea biology and geology. “We’re trying to create software that will allow these unmanned robots to act cognitively and intelligently,” he says.

Kinnaman worked as a salvage diver after college. In that role, he found that the software governing unmanned vehicles had serious deficiencies. To solve the problems, he realized that he needed stronger computer engineering skills. So he turned to the Whiting School.

The first semester’s C++ course, Kinnaman says, was by far the most comprehensive and rigorous course of its kind he’d ever encountered. To this day, he gives each of his new hires a copy of that course’s textbook.

Kinnaman and his wife, Joanna, moved to Vermont and launched Greensea Systems within weeks after he finished the Johns Hopkins program. Why build a deep-sea business in the middle of Vermont? “My wife and I had vacationed here for a long time,” he says. “We wanted a small town and a quiet place to raise a family. I’ve never regretted it.”