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Developers of Space Robotics Technology to Receive IEEE Robotics and Automation Award
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed May 31, 2008
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IEEE has named Paul Backes, Eric T. Baumgartner and Larry Matthies recipients of its 2008 Robotics and Automation Award. The three are being recognized for their contributions to different robotics technologies used in space flight systems including the successful Mars Exploration Rover (“MER”) mission rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which to this day are still functioning on the surface of Mars.  The IEEE is the world’s leading professional association for the advancement of technology.

The award, sponsored by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, recognizes Backes, Baumgartner and Matthies for contributions to robotics enabling effective autonomous operations of science investigations under extreme conditions on the planet Mars. The award will be presented to the three on 23 May 2008 at the 2008 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Pasadena, Calif.

The works of Backes (distributed and remote operations), Baumgartner (manipulator control) and Matthies (navigation systems) have advanced robotic technology, particularly rover operations, and made possible the scientific exploration of Mars.  MER is the first long term mobile autonomous robotic exploration in an unknown space environment. 

An IEEE member, Backes is the technical group supervisor of the Mobility and Manipulation group in the Mobility and Robotic Systems section at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.  He conceived and led the development of an interface system to allow scientists and engineers to collaborate in generating activity sequences, which was used as the primary science planning tool in the 2003 MER mission.  The interface also enables the public to view mission data and simulate their own activity sequences. Backes holds seven patents, has won several awards and has published numerous book chapters, articles and papers.  He was associate editor of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Magazine from 1993 to 1998.

Baumgartner contributed to the MER project as the lead systems, test and operations engineer for the MER Instrument Positioning System. This system was responsible for the robotic deployment and placement of four in-situ – meaning “in place” – instruments onto the Martian surface through the use of a five degree-of-freedom robotic arm.  Presently, Baumgartner is the dean of the T. J. Smull College of Engineering at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. He has published numerous papers in the area of mobile robotics and vision-guided manipulation and has received several awards for his efforts on the MER project.

Matthies’ work on autonomous navigation of robotic ground and air vehicles led to the development of algorithms for descent motion estimation, visual odometry, and real-time 3D perception with stereo vision.  These capabilities were incorporated into the MER mission, providing landers with the ability to estimate horizontal velocity and rovers with the ability to detect obstacles and measure slip.  His work can be found in terrestrial applications including off-road autonomous navigation and robotic vision systems.  An associate member of the IEEE, Matthies is an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California and a member of the editorial boards of the Autonomous Robots Journal and the Journal of Field Robotics.  He has received several awards, holds two patents and is widely published.

About the IEEE
The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.) is the world’s largest technical professional society. Through its more than 375,000 members in 150 countries, the organization is a leading authority on a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics. Dedicated to the advancement of technology, the IEEE publishes 30 percent of the world’s literature in the electrical and electronics engineering and computer science fields, and has developed nearly 900 active industry standards. The organization annually sponsors more than 850 conferences worldwide. Additional information about the IEEE can be found at http://www.ieee.org.

Contact
Christa M. Conte
KCSA Strategic Communications
E: 
P:  732-465-5865

Francine Tardo
IEEE
E: 
P:  212-896-1238


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