Four robotics visionaries honored

During the International Robots & Vision Show in suburban Chicago, four visionaries were recognized for significantly advancing robot technology and systems in their respective fields. The Engelberger Robotics Awards recognize significant achievements in the areas of leadership, application, education, and technology development.


Rosemont, IL —During the International Robots & Vision Show in suburban Chicago, four visionaries were recognized for significantly advancing robot technology and systems in their respective fields. The Engelberger Robotics Awards recognize significant achievements in the areas of leadership, application, education, and technology development. They are named after Joseph F. Engelberger, the "father of robotics.” The 2007 winners are David Lavery from NASA, Harvey Castner from Edison Welding Institute, Ms. Bala Krishnamurthy of Aeolean Inc. (the first female recipient), and Martin Hägele, a department head in Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA. Since its inception in 1977, the award has been presented to 105 innovative individuals from 16 countries. Each recipient was presented the award by Robotic Industries Association (RIA) president Trevor Jones and RIA executive vice president Donald Vincent. They “have left their mark on robotics and the industry,” said Vincent. “RIA is pleased to recognize these four international leaders with the prestigious Engelberger Robotics Awards."

The winner in the leadership category is David Lavery, program executive for Solar System Exploration at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) inWashington, DC. For over a decade, Lavery led the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Telerobotics Technology Development Program, with responsibility for content and direction of robotics and planetary exploration research efforts. Under his leadership the program was transformed into a world-class robotics technology and systems development program impacting NASA flight programs, other government robotics projects, and the entire robotics industry. Among the major products of Lavery's research program were the Sojourner Mars rover; a free-flying robotic camera used on the Space Shuttle; Dante I and II robotic volcano explorers; and the National Robotics Engineering Consortium (NREC), a group formed to transfer robotic technologies developed by NASA into the commercial robotics industry. Lavery's current professional commitment and involvement includes the creation of the NASA Robotics Alliance Project (RAP) to inspire K-12 students in robotics, a Fellow of the National User Group Advisory Council and the KISS Institute for Practical Robotics, and National Executive Advisory Board member of FIRST Robotics.

In the application category, the winner is Harvey Castner, vice president, Government Programs Office, Edison Welding Institute (EWI), Columbus, OH. Castner’s pioneering work in the early 1980s led to the application of first-generation industrial robots to arc welding tasks for the manufacture of agricultural products and heavy equipment. Castner serves as Director of the Navy Joining Center (NJC), a Navy Manufacturing Technology (MANTECH) Center of Excellence at EWI, and is responsible for the development and administration of R&D programs for the U.S. Navy, Department of Defense, and other government agencies.

The award for Technology Development went to Ms. Bala Krishnamurthy, founder and chief executive officer of Aeolean Inc., in Ridgefield, CT. For more than 25 years, Krishnamurthy has been designing and developing a wide range of software in programming languages, networked systems, and related technologies that have contributed to the growth of robotics. From her early days at Unimation Inc., she was a pioneer in the field of electric and hydraulic industrial robots. She adapted the VAL language designed for the electric PUMA robot to the hydraulic Unimate robot, and led the software design and development effort on Unimation's third generation UNIVAL controller. From the mid-1980s to the mid-'90s, she led the team that developed the software for autonomous courier robots that can navigate throughout hospitals, a mobile research base, and a 3D range sensor at HelpMate Robotics Incorporated. She also designed algorithms for multi-robot coordination and control and supervisory control for a 21-axis Robotic Transmission Line Rover developed for the Tennessee Valley Authority. She is the first female recipient of an Engelberger Robotics Award.

In the education category, the winner is Martin Hägele, head of the Department of Robot Systems at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart, Germany. Inspired by the book "Robots in Service" written by Joseph Engelberger, Hägele led the German study on the market potentials and challenges of service robots. He was the project lead and supervisor of numerous outstanding service robot developments, including a fuel-refilling robot resulting in a fully operational gas station and several generations of mobile robots developed for museums, shopping centers, and home applications. He is currently leader of a large-scale European initiative for the creation of a new family of Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME)-suitable robots. He has published more than 80 papers and book chapters, holds four patents and is editor of the journal Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing.

Joseph F. Engelberger, the award’s namesake, said of the 2007 award winners, "This year's award recipients have made outstanding contributions that have increased the use of robotics worldwide. Their innovations and perseverance have led to the use of robots in new ways, in educational curriculum, and have made it possible for companies to gain a foothold and prosper in the global economy they compete in."

The Joseph F. Engelberger Robotics Awards are presented annually by the Robotic Industries Association. Each award winner receives a $4,000 honorarium and a commemorative medallion. RIA is now accepting nominations for the 2008 Engelberger Robotics Awards, to be presented in Seoul, South Korea, during the 39th International Symposium on Robotics in October 2008. .

Edited by Renee Robbins , editorial director, Control Engineering Weekly News
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