A scheme that successfully employs quantum mechanics in the design of autonomous learning agents has recently been reported in the context of the projective simulation (PS) model for artificial intelligence. In that approach, the key feature of a PS agent, a specific type of memory which is explored via random walks, was shown to be amenable to quantization, allowing for a speed-up. In this work we propose an implementation of such classical and quantum agents in systems of trapped ions. We employ a generic construction by which the classical agents are ‘upgraded’ to their quantum counterparts by a nested process of adding coherent control, and we outline how this construction can be realized in ion traps. Our results provide a flexible modular architecture for the design of PS agents. Furthermore, we present numerical simulations of simple PS agents which analyze the robustness of our proposal under certain noise models.