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Kitts, Christopher

Dr. Christopher Kitts is a Professor at Santa Clara University where he serves as the Director of the Robotic Systems Laboratory and as the Associate Dean of Research and Faculty Development for the School of Engineering. He is also the Director of the Center for Robotic Exploration and Space Technologies, a multi-institution consortium of academic institutions focusing on aerospace research and education and which is located at the NASA Ames Research Park. In addition, he holds an Associate Researcher appointment at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, in conjunction with whom he and his students develop several advanced marine robotic systems. Dr. Kitts is also the Mission Operations Director for a series of NASA small spacecraft, which are controlled on-orbit by students in the Robotic Systems Laboratory.

At Santa Clara, Prof. Kitts runs an aggressive field robotics program specializing in the design, control and teleoperation of highly capable robotic system for scientific discovery, technology validation, and engineering education. These systems include underwater vehicles, clusters of land rovers, autonomous aircraft, and microspacecraft. These systems provide unique experimental opportunities for demonstrating research innovations in multi-robot systems, model-based anomaly management, and other research topics within the Lab. This program has been funded at a level of millions of dollars over the past five years and includes sponsors such as NSF, NASA, NOAA, the US Geological Survey, the US Air Force, the US Navy, BMW, Lockheed-Martin, Nike, and Intel. Highlights of the program include robotic-based scientific discoveries, such as evidence of tsunami waves in Lake Tahoe, and unique engineering accomplishments, such as controlling a series of NASA spacecraft for advanced space biological research. Students also are using the Lab’s robots to learn how to provide cost-effective engineering services, such as monitoring the health of local wineries, inspecting solar panel installations, and performing environmental surveys.

Prof. Kitts’ professional experience includes work ranging from a research engineer to an operational satellite constellation mission controller, and he has held appointments as an officer in the U.S. Air Force Space Command, as a NASA contractor with Caelum Research Corporation, as a DoD Research Fellow at the U.S. Phillips Laboratory, as a founder and the Graduate Student Director of Stanford University’s Space Systems Development Laboratory, and as a technical consultant. He holds degrees from Princeton University, the University of Colorado, and Stanford University. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.


Ph.D., Stanford University, Mechanical Engineering, 2006
M.P.A., University of Colorado, International & Defense Policy, 1996
M.S., Stanford University, Aerospace Engineering, 1992
B.S.E, Princeton University, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, 1987


SCU Presidential Recognition Award, 2015; NASA Ames Research Center Honor Award, 2014; National Academy of Engineering Exemplar Real World Engineering Program, 2013; Outstanding Faculty Member, KEEN Program, 2012; Edison Innovation Award co-winner, 2012; NASA Ames Research Center Achievement Award, 2009; NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Achievement Award, 2009; SCU School of Engineering Excellence in Teaching Award, 2008; SCU School of Engineering Researcher of the Year Award, 2007; NASA Team Achievement Award, 2004; Japan-U.S. Science Technology and Space Applications Program Outstanding Team Award, 2003; Santa Clara University Outstanding Service Award, 2000; Stanford University Lyon’s Service Award, 1999; AIAA National Award for Graduate Research in Intelligent Systems, 1998; Outstanding Teaching Award, Stanford University Dept. of Aeronautics & Astronautics, 1995; Dike Research Award, Princeton University Dept. of Mechanical & Aerospace Eng., 1986; Marshall Research Award, Princeton University Dept. of Mechanical & Aerospace Eng., 1986. Technical paper awards: AIAA Conf. on Small Satellites (1994, 1996, 1998) and ITC Telemetering Conf., 1995. SAE Doctoral Scholar, Dept. of Defense NDSEG Fellow, Stanford Future Professors Program Fellow.

Courses Taught


MECH 142 Dynamic Systems III - Control Systems
MECH 143 Mechatronics
MECH 144 Smart Product Design
MECH/ELEN/COEN/BIOE 194/195/196 Senior Design Project I, II, III
ENGR 180/181 Marine Operations/Advanced Marine Operations

For a list of Mechanical Engineering course descriptions, visit the Undergraduate Course Descriptions page.


MECH 207/208/209/310 Advanced Mechatronics I, II, III, IV
MECH/ELEN 337/338/339 Robotics I, II, III
MECH/ELEN 311 Modeling and Control of Telerobotic Systems
MECH 296 Topics in Dynamics and Controls - Ocean Engineering
MECH 296 Topics in Dynamics and Controls - Aerospace Design
MECH/EMGT 371/372 Space System Design and Engineering I & II
MECH 179/379 Satellite Operations Laboratory

For a list of Mechanical Engineering course descriptions, visit the Graduate Course Descriptions page.

One Column -
Title: Professor, Mechanical Engineering;
William and Janice Terry Professor, Mechanical Engineering;
Associate Dean of Research and Faculty Development, School of Engineering; 
Joint Appointments, Electrical and Computer Engineering (Courtesy) and Bioengineering (Affiliate); 
Fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineers