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Trey Smith

Systems Scientist, Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley / NASA Ames
Intelligent Robotics Group

Research Interests


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Trey Smith
Systems Scientist
Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley / NASA Ames Research Center
cell (preferred): 412-657-3579 work: 650-604-0158 fax: 650-604-4036

Office: N269-194
(map)   (detail map of Ames campus)

Work address:
NASA Ames Research Center / Mail Stop 269-3
Moffett Field, CA 94035-1000

Call sign: NV3P


Update: Just finished my Ph.D., about to start a new job at NASA Ames Research Center in the Intelligent Robotics Group directed by Terry Fong. I will be employed as a contractor through the Carnegie Mellon University West Coast Campus. My workplace is located in Moffett Field, near Mountain View, CA.

I was a Ph.D. student at the Field Robotics Center of the The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, PA.

1-Page Resume | Full-Length CV (contact me for up to date version)

Research Interests

My research interests include robot decision-making in complex, uncertain environments, with an emphasis on probabilistic reasoning, fielded robot systems, and applications in astrobiology and planetary science. Specific interests include planning under partial observability, rover science autonomy (i.e. onboard science data understanding and response), rough-terrain navigation, and multi-agent task allocation.

I have done a lot of research on POMDPs -- partially observable Markov decision processes. You can use POMDPs to model planning problems with uncertain action outcomes, hidden state, and noisy sensing. POMDP planners are particularly good at deciding when to use information gathering actions. My work is in heuristic search algorithms that quickly generate near-optimal policies both for POMDPs and for simpler MDP problems.

Download ZMDP software for POMDP and MDP planning.

Past Projects

Limits of Life in the Atacama

This project developed techniques for robotic astrobiology by studying life in extreme environments on Earth. Parts of the Atacama Desert in Chile have never received rainfall in recorded history; they are theorized to be absolute deserts, entirely devoid of life. Field investigation over three years used the Zoe rover to characterize the distribution of life. My role was to help provide the rover with science autonomy capabilities--it used onboard image analysis to detect the presence of chlorophyll and automatically took more detailed followup measurements.



FIRE Architecture Project

The FIRE Project looked at multi-robot architectures similar to those we studied for DIRA (see below), but mostly in simulation and in the context of Mars exploration with multiple rovers. The project was an early use of market-based techniques for multi-robot task allocation.  

Distributed Robot Architectures (DIRA) Project

DIRA looked at architectures for coordinating multiple heterogeneous robots. We demonstrated the system with three robots: (1) the RoboCrane, a crane with 6 DOF control of its end effector, (2) Bullwinkle, a mobile robot with a 5 DOF arm mounted on the front, and (3) Xavier, another mobile robot with stereo cameras. Together they performed a beam docking task. The RoboCrane provided heavy lifting and gross control, Bullwinkle provided fine control for the docking, and Xavier provided relative position updates that were used to guide both manipulators. I helped to develop a software framework for implementing the multi-robot control architecture, and did a lot of integration.


Mars Autonomy Project

We developed software for sending a rover tens of meters through rocky terrain like that seen by NASA's Viking and Pathfinder landers. The hard parts were interpreting the rover's stereo data into useful obstacle maps, and then integrating our local obstacle avoidance module (Morphin) with our global path planner (D*). Both Morphin and D* were inherited from earlier projects.

I spent summer 2000 at JPL working with Mark Maimone to port our software for the Rocky VII rover, and test it in the Mars Yard. Update: Mark later developed a Morphin extension called GESTALT that was used very successfully for navigation on the MER rovers.


Advanced Autonomy for Rovers Project at NASA Ames

The project as a whole was implementing software for streamlined ground operations and better onboard intelligence for future Mars rovers. I worked with the onboard reactive execution system in development for field trials of the Marsokhod rover. I designed a language to express contingent plans from the planner. Elements of this language are incorporated into the Contingent Rover Language that is still in use (as of this writing, 2004).



RETSINA is an architecture for multi-agent systems that focuses on information retrieval and integration. During a summer internship as an undergrad, I helped with some of the infrastructure, in particular the language and the parser that agents use to communicate.


Trey Smith, <> [ Last modified: Sun Jun 10 19:00:28 2012 ]