Engineering Dean Honored for Robotics Research

Dr. Mark W. Spong Earns IEEE's Pioneer in Robotics and Automation Award

May 26, 2011

Dr. Mark  W. Spong

Dr. Mark W. Spong

Dr. Mark W. Spong of UT Dallas has received the 2011 Pioneer in Robotics and Automation Award from the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society for groundbreaking robotics research that is widely regarded for its depth, breadth and practical applicability.

The Pioneer Award is the organization’s highest honor, recognizing individuals who have initiated new areas of research, development or engineering that have had a significant impact on the development of robotics and automation. The society cited Spong for “fundamental contributions to the foundations of control of robots and teleoperators, and for contributions to robotics education.”

Spong is dean of the University’s Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, where he holds both the Lars Magnus Ericsson Chair and the Excellence in Education Chair.

Spong has authored or co-authored several of the most highly cited papers in the field of robotics. “At each stage of his career he has identified difficult, practical, important problems and distilled their essential common features,” his award nomination reads. “He has produced innovative solutions in robotics that have stood the test of time to become now-classic results in robot control.”

His work has been instrumental in establishing the theoretical foundations of robot control, and the results he has produced over the past three decades have been implemented in systems at companies and research and development facilities around the world, including Sandia National Labs in New Mexico and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. 

His work also led to the first practical solution of the problem of time-delay compensation in bilateral teleoperation, which was a major impediment to the development of undersea and space robots, and he was the first to show how poor performance in robot arms due to uncertainties and joint elasticity could be overcome with advanced nonlinear feedback control methods that he helped to develop.

Spong has also had a major impact on robotics education. He co-authored one of the most popular textbooks on robot dynamics and control, which is still in use after more than 20 years. In addition, he developed both hardware and software, marketed by a company he founded (Mechatronic Systems Inc.), which are being used by more than 200 universities around the world.

Spong has received several previous awards for his work in robotics, including the Senior Scientist Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the IROS Fumio Harashima Award, and both the O. Hugo Shuck Award (twice) and the John R. Ragazzini Award from the American Automatic Control Council.  He was elected an IEEE Fellow in 1996 for his work in robot control.

The 2011 Pioneer Award was announced May 12 at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Shanghai.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is a professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation related to electricity. It has more than 400,000 members in more than 160 countries.


Media Contact: Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu
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