Donald L. Bitzer and H. Gene Slottow Creativity Award

Established 1989

Donald L. Bitzer
Donald L. Bitzer

Donald L. Bitzer

Donald L. Bitzer received a BS in 1955, an MS in 1956, and a PhD in 1960, all in Electrical Engineering from UIUC. He became an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at UIUC in 1960, and Professor in 1967. He became the Director of the University's Computer-based Education Research Lab (CERL) in 1967.

Dr. Bitzer is the inventor of the PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) system and the coinventor of the plasma display panel which received the Industrial Research 100 Award in 1966. He holds other patents in the electronics field, including patents for an image selector and an audio device for the PLATO IV terminal.

He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and a Fellow of the Association for Development of Computer-based Instructional Systems. He received the Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois in 1982.

Dr. Bitzer retired from UIUC in 1989 and is currently teaching and doing research at North Carolina State University.

Professor Donald L. Bitzer
Professor Donald L. Bitzer

H. Gene Slottow

Gene Slottow received an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Chicago, a master's degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a doctorate in electrical engineering from Illinois.

In 1964 while working for the University of Illinois as a Senior Research Engineer, Dr. Slottow, Donald Bitzer, and Robert Wilson co-invented the AC plasma display panel for the PLATO computer terminal. The patent on the plasma display panel has been the most lucrative in the history of the University, bringing in millions of dollars. Dr. Slottow became an Associate Professor with the Department of Electrical Engineering at UIUC in 1968.

In 1973, Dr. Slottow received the Frances Rice Darne Memorial Award from the Society for Information Display for technical achievement. In April 1975 he was elected as a fellow to the Society for Information Display for his outstanding contributions to the advancement of display technology. In January 1986 he was elected a Fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Dr. Slottow retired from the University of Illinois in 1986. He passed away March 11, 1989.

In early Ocober 2002, three U of I ECE alumni received an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Donald Bitzer (BSEE '55, MSEE '56, PhD '60), H. Gene Slottow (PhD '64), and Robert Willson (PhD '66) received the prestigious award for inventing the flat-panel plasma display, the forerunner of today's high-definition flat-panel television monitors. They shared the 2002 Scientific and Technological Emmy with Fujitsu General America Inc., which played a lead role in commercializing the technology.


The award was set up using donations by Prof. Donald L. Bitzer and H. Gene Slottow out of some of the funds they received from the development of the AC-plasma display panel. The award is to be presented to the student or students who demonstrate the most creativity and inventiveness in a design project. 


  1. You must be a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, enrolled in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
  2. The design must have been demonstrated in a public setting.
  3. The design must show creativity and inventiveness.
  4. The recipient should be an undergraduate.

Selection Process:

Each semester the faculty are asked to nominate students for this award. The committee will review the nominations and select the recipient.


The recipient(s) will be recognized during an annual Student Awards Banquet. All student recipients are featured on the second floor of the ECE Building's Student Honors Wall.

Past Recipients of the Award

Year Recipients
2022-2023 Pauline Lu, Asher Mai
2021-2022 Mihir Vardhan (UVC-Sanitization Robot)
2020-2021 Esteban (Steve) Looser-Rojas
2019-2020 Sarah Liu
2018-2019 Shubhankar Agarwal
2017-2018 Sam Walder
2016-2017 Anil Argawal, Emily Hannigan
2015-2016 Carl Haken
2013-2014 Benjamin Riggins, Allan Englehardt, James Younce
2012-2013 Alexander Crisci, Evan Schrock
2011-2012 Zhangxiaowen Gong
2010-2011 Brent Dirks, Harold Woods, Charles Mooney, Gabe Hartwig
2009-2010 David Harwath
2008-2009 Steve Ward
2007-2008 James Cavanaugh, Micah Evans, Steve Havlir
2006-2007 Zuofu Cheng
2005-2006 Lianhan Zhao, Diane Limsui, Kuangwei Hwang
2004-2005 Nathaniel Gingrich
2003-2004 "Assymmetric Capacitors (aka Lifters)" by James Babiarz, Ryan Barnes, Richard Cantzler, Jeffrey Chien, Benn Gottemoller, David Lytle, Greg Melnyk, Scott Moeller, Rob Schoonover, Brian Taylor
2002-2003 John Hebda, William Ho, and Jeffrey Vyduna
2001-2002 "Randy's Revenge" by Randall Clark
2000-2001 "Worklite Collaborative Word Processor" by Aron Fay and Robert Waldrop
1999-2000 "Space Shooter Targeting System" by Douglas Armstrong, Jeffrey Cook, and David Wentzlaff
1998-1999 "Method of Moment Analysis of Wire Antennas" by Noel T. Gres
1997-1998 "Widowmaker" by IEEE students
"Magtonomous" by Brian Krejcarek
"Josh's Team" by Joshua Moore and Paul Rooney
1996-1997 "The Adventures of Zinc" by Jeffrey Stall
"Simplified Surround Sound" by IEEE students
1995-1996 "Virtual Reality Bodysuit" by John J. Fairley
1994-1995 "Color Match 2000" by John Paschke
"PC Video" by Joshua Titus
1993-1994 "Composite Voice Synthesizer" by Anthony Carrico
"Home Made Virtual Cooties" by John Belmonte
1992-1993 "Video Joystick" by John Belmonte
1991-1992 "Verbal Command Recognition" by David Johnson
1990-1991 "Chauffeur Project" by HKN students