ECE professor first to receive new innovative technologies award


Bridget Maiellaro, ECE Illinois

Mark W Spong
Mark W Spong

ECE Professor Mark W Spong has been named the first recipient of the Intelligent Robotics and Systems (IROS) Fumio Harashima Award for Innovative Technologies, an honor created earlier this year to recognize outstanding contributions to the IROS community.

Spong, who learned he was the recipient of the award on Oct. 3, will receive $2,000 and a plaque at the 2007 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, an annual conference on all aspects of robot technology, which will take place Oct. 29 through Nov. 2, in San Diego, California.

The award, which was created to honor Professor Fumio Harashima, president of Tokyo Denki University and founder of the IROS conference, is sponsored by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, the IEEE Industrial Electronics Society, the Robotics Society of Japan, and the Japan Society of Instrumentation and Control Engineers (SICE). This year marks the 20th anniversary of the conference.

“I am very humbled and honored to be the first recipient of this award,” Spong said. “Over the years, the IROS has grown into one of the largest and best conferences in robotics, and it is gratifying to have my work recognized in this way.”

In order to be eligible for the IROS Fumio Harashima Award, those nominated must have created a new research area and/or technology for intelligent robots and systems and must have presented his or her contributions in one or more past IROS conferences, according to the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society’s Web site. Spong did not have a problem fulfilling the requirements, as he has produced solutions to several difficult problems in robotics, such as the problem of time-delay induced instability in bilateral teleoperation, the control of underactuated mechanical systems, the problem of joint elasticity in robot manipulators, and more recently, the problem of achieving stable walking gaits in bipedal locomotion.

“Spong’s work has been instrumental in establishing the theoretical foundations of robot control and manifested by his extensive list of archival publications and his books,” said Professor Jessy Grizzle of the University of Michigan, who nominated Spong for the award, in a letter of recommendation. “He was among the first to apply deep theoretical tools to produce innovative solutions that have stood the test of time to become the now classic results in the field. Importantly, many of his theoretical results have been implemented on practical systems in industry and government laboratories.”

Spong received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, in 1975, a master’s degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University in 1977, and a master’s degree and doctorate in systems science and mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1979 and 1981, respectively. He has been at Illinois since 1984 and is currently a Donald Biggar Willett Professor of Engineering.

Spong is past president of the IEEE Control Systems Society and a past vice president for Publication Activities. He served as editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology from 1997-2000 and has been on the editorial board of several journals. Spong is also president of Mechatronic Systems, Inc., a company he founded in 1996.

Spong, a Fellow of the IEEE and a Distinguished Member of the IEEE Control Systems Society, has published four books and more than 250 technical articles in control and robotics. Over the years, he has received various awards and recognitions. Most recently, he received the John R. Ragazzini Award from the American Automatic Control Council in 2004, the O. Hugo Schuck Award from the American Automatic Control Council in 2002, the IEEE Third Millennium Medal in 2000 and the Senior Scientist Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 1999. He was also given the Illinois Outstanding Advisor Award in 2005 and 1999.

Spong’s current research focuses on telemanipulation in multi-robot networks, passivity-based control in bipedal locomotion, reliable and robust control architectures and algorithms for autonomous aerial and ground vehicles, and networked control systems.