Organization pays tribute to robotics pioneer

The Robotic Industries Association (RIA) announced the launch of a website paying tribute to the late Joseph F. Engelberger, known as the "Father of Robotics," who passed away Dec. 1 at the age of 90. Annual awards have been given in his honor since 1977.


Joseph F. Engelberger, a World War II veteran, engineer and entrepreneur who pioneered the robotics field by creating the first robotics company, Unimation, turned 90 years old on July 26. Courtesy: Robotic Industries Association (RIA)

Joseph F. Engelberger, known as the "Father of Robotics," passed away at the age of 90 on Dec. 1. The Robotic Industries Association (RIA) had recently announced the launch of a website paying tribute to the engineer and entrepreneur who pioneered the robotics field. The tribute site is located on the RIA website and has been updated to reflect Engelberger's passing.

"It's important to remember our history in robotics," said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA. "This website provides a timeline of his many accomplishments in the field of robotics that is still revolutionizing modern manufacturing processes today."

Engelberger, an industry advocate, author, and international ambassador for robotics, founded Unimation, Inc., in 1956, the world's first industrial robotics manufacturer. Working closely with inventor George Devol, he developed the first industrial robot in the U.S., called "Unimate," which was installed for industrial use in a General Motors plant in 1961. Since then, approximately three million industrial robots have been installed in manufacturing facilities around the world.

"Joe made some of the most important contributions to technological advancement in the history of the world," Burnstein said. "Because of Joe, robotics became a global industry. He was years ahead of his time, envisioning robots based on insects and birds decades ago—developments that we're finally seeing today. His question, 'Do you think a robot could do that?' inspired researchers to answer 'yes' and develop the amazing robotics applications found worldwide today."

The RIA is currently accepting for the Joseph F. Engelberger robotics awards, which is the world's most prestigious honor in the field of robotics. The awards are presented each year to individuals for excellence in robotics technology development, application, education, and leadership. Since the awards inception in 1977, they have been presented to 116 robotics leaders from 17 nations. Recent winners of the Engelberger award include Dean Kamen, founder of the FIRST Robotics competition and Rodney Brooks, co-founder of iRobot and current Chairman and CTO of Rethink Robotics.

The 2016 awards will be presented in the categories of leadership and application. Each winner receives a $5,000 honorarium and a commemorative medallion with the inscription "Contributing to the advancement of the science of robotics in the service of mankind." These awards will be presented in conjunction with the International Symposium on Robotics in Munich, Germany, June 21-24, 2016. The nomination form is available on the RIA website. Applications must be received by Jan. 15, 2016.

Robotic Industries Association (RIA) 

- Edited by CFE Media. See more Control Engineering robotics stories.

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