Robot developers win IEEE award

IEEE recognized Paul Backes, Eric T. Baumgartner and Larry Matthies with its 2008 Robotics and Automation Award for contributions to robotics technologies used in the successful Mars Exploration Rover


Piscataway, NJ IEEE named Paul Backes, Eric T. Baumgartner and Larry Matthies as 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. Those rovers are still functioning on the surface of Mars.
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 on 23 May 2008 at the 2008 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Pasadena, CA.
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 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. 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.
Also see the blog, " Aiming for Automated Vehicles ."
— Edited by C.G. Masi , senior editor
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