2017 IEEE RAS–SIGHT Humanitarian Robotics & Automation Technology Challenge (HRATC'17)
29-30 May, ICRA 2017, Singapore (Porto Alegre, Brazil remotely)

competition photo

Edson Prestes (UFRGS, Brazil)
Alexandre Amory (PUCRS, Brazil)
Raj Madhavan (HumRobTech, LLC, & IEEE RAS-SIGHT, USA)

The fourth HRATC edition will follow the footsteps of previous ones and continue to focus on promoting the development of new strategies for autonomous landmine detection using a mobile (ground) robot. HRATC Challenge has three phases: 1) Simulation Phase, 2) Testing Phase, and 3) Finals Phase. The strategies developed by the participating teams will be according to the following criteria: exploration time and environmental coverage; detection and classification quality; and landmine avoidance. Teams will be progressively eliminated after each phase and the remaining teams would move on to the next phase culminating in the Challenge (Finals) phase at ICRA'17. All teams will use the same robot that will be available before (for remote practice runs) and during the Challenge. Furthermore, participants will have access to a ROS-based simulator to develop and test their code before testing it remotely on the real robot.

More details on the previous edition can be found at http://www.isr.uc.pt/HRATC2016 and from the following summary articles published in the IEEE RAS Robotics & Automation Magazine:
- 2015 Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge, IEEE RAS RAM, Sept. 2015.
- 2016 Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge, IEEE RAS RAM, Sept. 2016.

All potential participants should submit a paper (1-2 pages) in the standard IEEE format including figures that describes the motivation and previous experiences/researches (if any). The organizers will then evaluate this paper and an acceptance notification containing further steps would follow. All submissions should be sent to <hratc2017@gmail.com>. The Challenge will take place remotely in Porto Alegre, Brazil and beamed in real time to the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands in Singapore during ICRA'17. Necessary logistics and travel support will be provided depending on the number of qualifying teams.

- Entry Deadline: 15 November 2016
- Acceptance Notifications: 1 December 2016
- Simulation Phase: 15 December 2016 - 15 February 2017
- Testing Phase: 1 March 2017 - 1 April 2017
- Challenge@ICRA'17: 29-30 May 2017

A downloadable CFP and more info. on HRATC'17 is available from http://www.inf.ufrgs.br/hratc2017/HRATC_2017/

It is going to be amazing!


2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2016) will be held in Daejeon, Korea, 9-14 October 2016.

Victor Scheinman died at the age of 73 from a heart attack while visiting his brother in Northern California. Vic lived in Woodside, near Palo Alto, CA USA and in San Francisco, CA USA.

V Scheinman small

Vic graduated from MIT with a degree in Aero & Astro. He then entered Stanford as a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering and also spent a year in Belgium at the von Karmen Institute for Fluid Dynamics. After completing his Masters Degree he joined the Stanford Artificial Intelligence lab (SAIL) and enrolled for an Engineers Degree, which he completed in 1969. In connection with his Engineers Degree thesis he researched the idea of having a purely digital mechanical arm. This led to the "Orm" that was a prototype a pneumatically actuated multi-degree of freedom snake like arm. In addition, he was instrumental in modifying a Rancho Los Amigos exoskeleton arm for operation under computer control and he also participated in the design of a high-speed computer controlled humanoid hydraulic arm.

The main portion of his Engineers thesis dealt with the design of a six-degree-of-freedom computer controlled electric manipulator that he named The Stanford Arm. He then went on to produce over 10 copies of this Stanford Arm. It became the preferred research device in several university, government and industrial laboratories, and mathematical models of it were used as example in early robotics research papers and textbooks. This design is also deservedly referred to as "The Scheinman Stanford Robot Arm" or simply "The Scheinman Arm."

Vic then developed a six-axis force/torque sensing wrist that could be carried by the Scheinman Arm and other manipulators. This facilitated experiments in force control. He then returned briefly to MIT where he had been invited by Marvin Minsky to design a small humanoid arm for their AI Lab.

After returning to California, Vic started Vicarm, a company that produced copies of both his MIT design, which he named the Vicarm, and his Stanford arm. After several years his company was bought by Unimation, Inc. and was turned into the West Coast Division of Unimation. Vic's first new product, sponsored by General Motors through Unimation, was basically a scaled up industrial version of the Vicarm design. It was named the PUMA manipulator, and was well received both in academia and industry.

Victor left his company in 1980 to found the West Coast office of the computer vision company Automatix. After Vic left, Unimation was purchased by Westinghouse, and subsequently Brian Carlisle and Bruce Shimano, Vic's closest colleagues at Vicarm, arranged to reorganize Unimation's West Coast Division into Adept, Inc. For the rest of his life Vic remained close to and highly supportive of both Carlisle and Shimano.

At Automatix Vic invented Robot World. It was an entirely new concept for robotic use in manufacturing. He intended it to be used for circuit board assemble. Basically it was composed of multiple small manipulators magnetically suspended and free to move under computer control on an air cushion under an x-y table. Eventually Robot World was licensed for manufacture by the Japanese company Fujitsu.

After leaving Automatix Vic devoted his time to consulting and education. He coached design students in Stanford's Mechanical Engineering department and robotics labs. He was also active with High School students whom he mentored in connection with the First Robotics Competitions.

Vic received the Joseph F. Engelberger Award and also the ASME's Leonardo DaVinci Award for his work as a robot designer. Several of his manipulators are exhibited in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC and the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. Vic was the consummate engineer. He kept extensive design notebooks, and his home shop was stocked with surplus hardware for electronic, computer and mechanical systems. He was totally a hands-on person, who did his own repairs and designs. He felt he could fix almost anything, and loved figuring out ways to solve problems. He always had a large number of projects going at the same time, and was very generous in providing his tools, parts, labor and expertise to his friends, colleagues and students. He will be greatly missed by the large community that he touched throughout his life with his dynamic personality and generous heart.

Fabrizio Flacco, a tenured research scientist of the French CNRS, suddenly passed away at the age of 34 on 18 September 2016, due to an undiagnosed congenital heart malformation, which burst while jogging with a friend.

F Flacco

Fabrizio took his master degree in Pisa as a student of Antonio Bicchi in 2007, and received his PhD from Sapienza University of Rome in 2011 with a thesis on "Modeling and Control of Robots with Compliant Actuation", with Alessandro De Luca as supervisor. In between, he spent a research period at the Stanford AI Lab (SAIL) with Oussama Khatib and his group. After a post-doc at Sapienza, working for the FP7 SAPHARI and the H2020 COMANOID European research projects, he became in December 2015, a Chargé de Recherche of the CNRS at LIRMM in Montpellier, in the IDH group led by Abderrahmane Kheddar. 

Dr. Flacco has been an IEEE RAS student member from 2009, and then a member since 2012. He served our community in different ways: he was among the promoters of the workshop series on Human-Friendly Robotics (HFR), a very central event for young researchers in the field, organized several workshops at ICRA and IROS conferences, was one of the Associate Editors in the IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, and Co-Chair of the RAS Technical Committee on Algorithms for Planning and Control of Robot Motion. For a paper that appeared in the IEEE Transactions on Robotics in June 2015, Fabrizio received just few days before leaving us the 2016 IEEE RAS Italian Chapter Award for Best Paper by a Young Author. The Chapter decided right away to name the award after him (see http://www.i-ras.it/node/129).

A collection of memories and pictures can be accessed at http://homepages.laas.fr/afranchi/robotics/remembering-fabrizio. Our heartfelt condolences go to the family, his wife and two little daughters, from all his friends and colleagues.

RAS is pleased to arrange three Luncheon Networking events for our Members attending IROS 2016 in Daejeon, South Korea. Space is limited for these popular events. Don't miss the chance to attend either or both because the space has been filled. Advanced registration is required. The cost is $5 per lunch.
Register Now! https://www.regonline.com/ieeeroboticsandautomationsocietyeventsati_1884632

RAS Women in Engineering Leadership (WIE) Luncheon
Tuesday, 11 October from 12:15-13:30
Emerald Room/ 2F of the Daejeon Convention Center (DCC) (107, EXPO-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon, South Korea)

The Women in Engineering (WIE) luncheon provides an opportunity to foster discussion on the role of women in robotics and automation, inspire girls and promote collaborations and initiatives to advance women in leadership. As the goal for this event is to be more than a lunch for women, but a lunch with women. Therefore, men are more than welcome to participate and enjoy the discussion.


Speaker: Manuela M. Veloso
Manuela is the Herbert A. Simon University Professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. She is the Head of the Machine Learning Department, and she has joint appointment in the Computer Science Department and courtesy appointments in the Robotics Institute and Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. She researches in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. She founded and directs the CORAL research laboratory, for the study of autonomous agents that Collaborate, Observe, Reason, Act, and Learn, www.cs.cmu.edu/~coral. Professor Veloso is IEEE Fellow, AAAS Fellow, AAAI Fellow, Einstein Chair Professor, and the co-founder and past President of RoboCup, and past President of AAAI. Professor Veloso and her students research with a variety of autonomous robots, including mobile service robots and soccer robots. See www.cs.cmu.edu/~mmv for further information, including publications.

There is a $5 USD registration fee to attend. Space is limited and first come, first served, so advanced registration is suggested.
Register here: https://www.regonline.com/ieeeroboticsandautomationsocietyeventsati_1884632


RAS Lunch with Leaders - LwL (for Students)
Wednesday, 12 October from 12:00-13:30
Crystal Ballroom A&B, Lotte City Hotel

This luncheon is open to student attendees and offers the chance to meet and interact with RAS and Industry Leaders. Get your questions answered regarding career advice, the direction of the industry, future growth in robotics & automation, publication practices, etc. YOU decide the topic of conversation!

Confirmed Leaders include:
Satoshi Takodoro, Torsten Kroeger, Martin Buss, Eugenio Guglielmelli, Ron Lumia, Erwin Prassler , Jing Xiao, Ning Xi, Raja Chatila, David Orin, I-Ming Chen, Wolfram Burgard, Allison Okamura

There is a $5 USD registration fee to attend. Space is limited and first come, first served, so advanced registration is suggested.
Register here: https://www.regonline.com/ieeeroboticsandautomationsocietyeventsati_1884632


Young Professionals Luncheon
Wednesday, 12 October from 12:00-13:30
Emerald Room/ 2F of Daejeon Convention Center (DCC)

This luncheon is open to attendees in the early stages of their career. New this Year! Chairs and co-Chairs of the RAS Technical Activities will be available for informal conversation centered on new technologies in robotics & automation, future growth in the field, and how to get involved and contribute to RAS Technical Committee work.

Confirmed RAS Technical Committee Leaders include: (TBD)

There is a $5 USD registration fee to attend. Space is limited and first come, first served, so advanced registration is suggested.
Register here: https://www.regonline.com/ieeeroboticsandautomationsocietyeventsati_1884632

As the ICRA2017 submission deadline approaches, we are looking for Senior Advisors for the Young Reviewers Program (YRP) of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS).

The Young Reviewers Program (YRP) is intended to introduce young RAS members to the best practices in peer-reviewing of scientific papers. As a Senior Reviewer, your role would be to give reviewing assignments to Junior Reviewers, and to oversee the review process in a mentor-mentee relationship.

Accepting to serve will not increase the number of papers that you review. Only papers that you have already accepted to review (for ICRA 2017) would be eligible for the YRP. In this way, we believe that there will be no net increase in your reviewing workload. The time you would normally spend writing a careful review would be invested instead in cultivating skills in a Junior Reviewer.

As a Senior Reviewer, you can contact a Junior Reviewer found from the YRP website (https://parasol.tamu.edu/ieee/ras-yrp/)
and assign to the Junior Reviewer one ICRA paper that you have been asked to review and then work with the Junior Reviewer to perfect the review, which you will submit via PaperPlaza (see more details here).

Please join and sign up to the YRP web site, where you can find details of the eligibility and the procedure. https://parasol.tamu.edu/ieee/ras-yrp/https://parasol.tamu.edu/ieee/ras-yrp/

Best regards,
Arash Ajoudani - IEEE-RAS YRP Executive Manager - arash.ajoudani@iit.it
Seth Hutchinson - IEEE-RAS YRP Director - seth@illinois.edu

The Deadline to vote is 25 October 2016!

RAS members are voting to elect six new members of the RAS Administrative Committee to serve 3-year terms beginning 1 January 2017. All RAS members (Graduate Student Members and above) have received voting instructions, the biographies, and statements of the candidates by email. RAS membership must be active as of 13 August 2016 to be eligible to vote. Members who do not have valid emails registered with the IEEE or have opted not to receive e-mail from IEEE, have received their election materials by post.

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Use https://eballot4.votenet.com/IEEE to access the ballot and cast your vote now. If you do not remember your password, you may retrieve it on the voter login page.

Voting must be completed no later than 25 October 2016. Any returns received after this date will not be counted. The online voting site will close at 4:00 pm Eastern Time.

Click here to review the candidates' bios and position statements.


If you have any questions about the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society voting process, please contact ieee-rasvote@ieee.org or +1 732-562-3904.

Full Day Workshop #3
13 October 2016 @ IROS'16

Organizer: Raj Madhavan, IEEE Future Directions Committee

After two successful workshops at theIEEE PHM'16 conference in Ottawa  and at SIPRI , the ATSI Forum at IROS 2016 will allow for discussion on the design of autonomous technologies and their societal impact in both positive and negative ways with particular emphasis on issues relevant to the Asia-Pacific region but not exclusively. Emphasis will be placed not only on technology and public policy issues but also on environmental, cultural, structural, political, and socio-economic factors. Based on the discussions before, during, and after these workshops and forums, a White Paper consisting of valid and balanced  reflecting the state-of-the-art with an emphasis on technology and public policy issues that are representative of various stakeholders from across the globe will be published towards the end of 2016. The findings and summaries will be made available via the FDC website for other initiatives and similar efforts to use them as a reference guide to foster discussions within the community and to foster best practices.

Call for Participation and how to submit your extended abstracts:

Extended Abstract Submission Deadline: 15 September 2016
Notification of Accepted Presentations: 22 September 2016

He was recently announced as the recipient of the prestigious 2017 IEEE Robotics and Automation Award for "Contributions to the development of robot control and human-centered and humanoid robotics, and leadership in the robotics community."

2017 Robotics and Automation Khatib portrait photo small

A long time and dedicated Volunteer for the IEEE Robotics & Automation Society, he is now recognized for exemplary work in the field. He will receive his award during the 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Singapore on 29 May-3 June 2017.

Oussama Khatib received his Doctorate degree in Electrical Engineering from Sup'Aero, Toulouse, France, in 1980. He is Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University. His work on advanced robotics focuses on methodologies and technologies in human-centered robotics including humanoid control architectures, human motion synthesis, interactive dynamic simulation, haptics, and human- friendly robot design. He is Co-Editor of the Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics series, and has served on the Editorial Boards of several journals as well as the Chair or Co-Chair of numerous international conferences. He co-edited the Springer Handbook of Robotics, which received the PROSE Award. He is a Fellow of IEEE and has served as a Distinguished Lecturer. He is the President of the International Foundation of Robotics Research (IFRR). Professor Khatib is a recipient of the Japan Robot Association (JARA) Award in Research and Development. In 2010 he received the IEEE RAS Pioneer Award in Robotics and Automation for his fundamental pioneering contributions in robotics research, visionary leadership, and life-long commitment to the field. Professor Khatib received the 2013 IEEE RAS Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his vision and leadership for the Robotics and Automation Society, in establishing and sustaining conferences in robotics and related areas, publishing influential monographs and handbooks and training and mentoring the next generation of leaders in robotics education and research. In 2014, Professor Khatib received the 2014 IEEE RAS George Saridis Leadership Award in Robotics and Automation.

The IEEE Robotics and Automation Award was established in 2002 by the IEEE Board of Directors, and is presented for contributions in the field of robotics and automation. It includes but is not limited to: manufacturing automation; robotics and automation in unstructured environments; sensor design; integration and fusion; robot design; modeling; planning and control; methodologies for robotics and automation, and the quality of the nomination.

Past Recipients can be found HERE

Congratulations to the following IEEE International Conference on Automation Science and Engineering (CASE 2016) Award Recipients! Winners were announced and honored during the Awards Cermeony which took place on 24 August 2016 in Fort Worth, TX USA.

IEEE-CASE Best Conference Paper Award

An annual award to recognize the Best Conference Paper of the IEEE Conference on Automation Science and Engineering (IEEE CASE) presented in current year.

Best Conference Paper small

"Regionally Growing Random Trees: A Synergistic Motion Planning and Control Algorithm for Dynamic Systems"
by Siamak Ghorbani Faal and Cagdas Denizel Onal






IEEE-CASE Best Application Paper Award

Best application paper presented at the International Conference on Automation Science and Engineering (CASE) presented in current year.

CASE Best Application Paper group small

"Context-Aware Activity Prediction Using Human Behavior Pattern in Real Smart Home Environments"
by Ming-Je Tsai, Chao-Lin Wu, Sipun Kumar Pradhan, Yifei Xie, Ting-Ying Li, Li-Chen Fu, and Yi-Chong Zeng





IEEE-CASE Best Student Conference Paper Award

To recognize a student author(s) of a paper presented at the IEEE International Conference on Automation Science and Engineering (CASE) contributing to the notable advancement in automation research: abstractions, algorithms, theory, methodologies, and models that improve efficiency, productivity, quality, and reliability of machines and systems operating in structured environments over extended periods, or that improve the explicit structuring of environments where machines and systems operate.

Best Student Paper small

"An Integrated Framework for Human-Robot Collaborative Assembly in Hybrid Manufacturing Cells"
by Behzad Sadrfaridpour, Hamed Saeidi, and Yue Wang





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