IEEE Robotics and Automation Society - IEEE Robotics and Automation Society

RAS E-News September 2007

Volume 5, Number 9

Welcome to RASeNews, the IEEE RAS email newsletter. RASeNews is limited to short announcements of RAS Conferences, RAS society 'action items', breaking news, and time-sensitive issues. Send comments, queries and news items to


1. IEEE 2007 New Initiative Grants

On April 2007 the Society was informed by IEEE that $100,000 of unspent funds could be allocated for unbudgeted new initiatives, providing the funds were spent by December 31, 2007. Despite the short notice, we were able to publish a call for proposals to which received 39 responses. The Vice Presidents, chairs of the relevant committees and the AdCom carefully reviewed the proposals and chose ten which seemed to provide the greatest benefit to society members and could be completed within the constraints of the IEEE financial board.

A Call for Proposals for 2008 Society Initiative Grants (subject to availability of funds) will soon be issued. Proposals for the 2008 Initiative Grants will be due December 31, 2007.

The ten programs funded under the 2007 initiative grants are as follows:


A Website for Literature Review Dissemination ($2.9K)

This website will allow researchers (faculty members, students, industry members, others) to upload research reviews they have conducted. These will be uploaded in the form of a table or document that summarizes the literature review. These reviews will be accessible for others to download. Users of the website will be able to see any of the uploaded reviews once they are registered and logged in. The registration and use of the system will be free of charge.
Submitted by: Imad H. Elhajj, American University of Beirut.

Ph.D. Fellowship for Women in Robotics and Automation ($12,500)

This grant will provide a one-semester doctoral fellowship for a female PhD student majoring in robotics or automation. (The original proposal was for a one year proposal, which would not fit the constraints of the funds available this year).

A call for submission was issued via email to all RAS members. 40 application were received by the September 10 deadline.The recipient will be announced shortly.

Submitted by: George Bekey (University of Southern California) and Allison Okamura (Johns Hopkins University)

Teaching Robotics Everywhere: A Repository of Robotics Teaching Materials ($24,900)

This grant will support development of an open repository of robotics course materials similar to MITs Open Course Ware (OCW) initiative (, integrated into the new RAS Web Portal', thus providing much needed educational content to RAS web presence. This repository will contain a suite of robotics materials for teaching all aspects of robotics, ranging from undergraduate introductory course to project courses and graduate courses. Example materials for each course will include syllabi, lecture notes, laboratory specifications, exercises, assessment materials, and reading materials. The web site will be searchable, browsable, and open for downloads. The Web site will be open but moderated for contributions so that anyone can contribute materials.

Submitted by: Daniela Rus and Aaron Dollar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Paolo Fiorini, University of Verona

ICRA 2008 Robotics Challenge ($8,000) This grant will provide seed funds for the ICRA2008 Robot Challenge to ensure that the initial event is well publicized and well attended and will be positioned to become the premiere yearly showcase of research robotics in the world. It will provide a venue for competition and collaboration, for setting the collective goals of the field, and for influencing funding agencies.

Submitted by: William Smart, Washington University in St. Louis

Latin American Robotics Council ($13,000)

The goal of the current proposal is to create an IEEE RAS Latin American Robotics Council that will unify, coordinate and strengthen robotics activities in the region, while encouraging further RAS membership, individual and chapter, both at the professional and student levels. The activities to be funded by this proposal include regional meetings, symposia, summer schools, robotics competitions and professional and student activities that will bring together chapter chairs, professionals and students across the region to encourage further membership and chapter creation. Information about the activities in the website

Submitted by: Javier Ruiz del Solar, Chair RAS Chile Chapter, and Alfredo Weitzenfeld, Chair RAS Mexico Chapter

2007 Open Source High-Fidelity Simulation Framework and Competition ($10,000)

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in cooperation with the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, is starting a new University outreach effort that is aimed at introducing robotics and automation to students and faculty. We believe that researchers with interests in the areas of multi-agent cooperation, mapping, communications networks, sensor processing and general robotics will be interested. Accepted participants from regional universities (Greater Washington area) will attend a 2-day workshop at NIST and leave with all of the hardware and software necessary to simulate autonomous vehicles operating in a factory environment and to participate in a factory automation regional competition.

Submitted by: Stephen Balakirsky, Raj Madhavan and Chris Scrapper, U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, and RAS Washington DC Local Chapter

. IEEE ASIA-Pacific Robotics and Automation Development Council ($6,000)

Funds from this grant will be used to enhance the knowledge and skills in Robotics and Automation (RA) for underdeveloped regions in Asia-Pacific countries and cities by developing the curriculum, by introducing training programmes and by organizing technical seminars and workshops on Robotics and Automation.

Submitted by: Professor S. G. Ponnambalam and S. M. N. Arosha Senanayake, Monash University Sunway Campus, Malaysia and Malaysia RAS Local Chapter.

Establishing IEEE/RAS Points of Presence and Initiatives in Second Life (SL)

Linden Lab's Second Life (SL),, is a social network that, differently from others, efficiently implements the idea of a full 3D environment where users are identified with avatars able to move in this environment.

The project consists of setting up a permanent location in this virtual environment, in the form of a building, with poster-like material and videos presenting the aim and services of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. This information will be periodically updated to advertise ongoing events and initiatives of the RAS community. This project will evaluate the possibility of broadcasting in the SL world live events, such as plenary talks, workshops or lectures.

A further objective of this project is that of reproducing in SL simplified behaviors of real world robots and auto-responding desk assistants. This will be very important to populate the SL building of the IEEE RAS.

Submitted by: Domenico Prattichizzo, University of Siena

Student Exchange Program for Cross-Disciplinary Fertilization ($5000)

This grant will allow non-engineering graduate students in haptics to visit engineering laboratories and vice versa in order to create a forum for cross-disciplinary fertilization within the Haptics community as a whole.

Submitted by: Hong Z. Tan, (Purdue Univ.), Roberta L. Klatzky, (Carnegie Mellon Univ.), and Susan J. Lederman, (Queen’s Univ., Canada), and RAS Haptics Technical Committee.

Non-Engineering Haptics Community IEEE-RAS Membership Drive ($1000)

These funds will cover on an introductory basis a portion of the IEEE Membership fee for members of the RAS Technical Committee on Haptics who are not already IEEE members and are not currently in an engineering department or holding an engineering position. The initiative is intended to encourage haptics researchers in non-engineering fields, such as psychology and neuroscience, to join IEEE.

Submitted by: Allison Okamura, Johns Hopkins Univ. and RAS Haptics Technical Committee.

2. LAST CALL FOR NOMINATIONS: IROS Harashima Award for Innovative

This award, honoring Prof. Fumio Harashima, founding chair of the Intelligent Robots and Systems conferences, is jointly sponsored by IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, IEEE Industrial Electronics Society, the Robotics Society of Japan, and the Society of Instrument and Control Engineers, beginning this year, the 20th anniversary of IROS.

The recipient of the Harashima Award, which includes a $2000 honorarium and a plaque, must have created a new research area and/or technology for intelligent robots and systems. The recipient must have presented his or her contribution in (a) past IROS Conference(s).

To propose a candidate, please submit a letter of recommendation, which should summarize the candidate's qualifications for the award, to the nomination committee chair:

Kazuhiro Kosuge, Professor
Department of Bioengineering and Robotics
Tohoku University

3. IEEE Election Ballots Mailed to Members It is time to vote in IEEE elections! All eligible members should have received their election materials by email or postal mail. They are also available on the web at

Of particular interest to RAS members is the election of the Division X Director Elect. The candidates are RAS President Richard Volz, President and Thomas Wiener, Past President of the Oceanographic Engineering Society and of the IEEE Systems Council. Their statements and bios are on the website above.

The societies and councils of the IEEE are divided into 10 technical divisions and the Directors represent their Divisions on the IEEE Board of Directors.

RAS Members will also have the opportunity to vote for IEEE President Elect, Vice President for Technical Activities, and those in Regions 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9 will elect Directors Elect for their geographic area.

4. RAS AdCom Elections--Coming Soon!

It is time to vote in IEEE elections! All eligible members should have received their election materials by email or postal mail. They are also available on the web at

Of particular interest to RAS members is the election of the Division X Director Elect. The candidates are RAS President Richard Volz, President and Thomas Wiener, Past President of the Oceanographic Engineering Society and of the IEEE Systems Council. Their statements and bios are on the website above.

The societies and councils of the IEEE are divided into 10 technical divisions and the Directors represent their Divisions on the IEEE Board of Directors.

RAS Members will also have the opportunity to vote for IEEE President Elect, Vice President for Technical Activities, and those in Regions 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9 will elect Directors Elect for their geographic area.

5. IEEE Robotics and Automation Award

The IEEE Robotics & Automation Award is an IEEE institute-level award sponsored by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. The 2008 award will be presented to the following co-recipients “for contributions to robotics enabling effective autonomous operations of science investigations under extreme conditions on the planet Mars.”

The recipients are Paul G. Backes , Eric T. Baumgartner, and Larry H Matthies

Dean, T.J. Smull College of Engineering
Ohio Northern University
Ada, OH, USA

As a JPL employee (1996–2006), Dr. Baumgartner initially contributed to a number of robotic technology projects that were aimed at advancing JPL’s capabilities with respect to autonomous planetary rovers and robotic manipulation systems. In particular, he was the lead engineer on the Sample Return Rover project and the FIDO rover project. In 2000, Dr. Baumgartner joined the Mars Exploration Rover (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 4 in-situ instruments onto the Martian surface through the use of a 5 degree-of-freedom robotic arm. The successful operation of the MER Instrument Positioning System has contributed significantly to the scientific discoveries made by the two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. After the MER project, Dr. Baumgartner became the project element manager for the robotic sample acquisition system for the Mars Science Laboratory project.

He left JPA in 2006 to become Dean of the T. J. Smull College of Engineering at Ohio Northern University.

Supervisor, Computer Vision Group
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA, USA

Dr. Matthies’ research interests have focused on vision systems for autonomous navigation. While at CMU, he developed the first accurate visual deadreckoning algorithm for robot vehicles. In 1990 at JPL, he achieved a breakthrough in algorithms for real-time 3D perception with stereo vision. Both of these capabilities were incorporated in the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission and are now in demand for applications on Earth. His group developed a Descent Image Motion Estimation System (DIMES) for the MER landers that used feature tracking to estimate horizontal velocity in the last 2 km of descent to control retrorocket firing. He leads research to extend descent image processing to include landmark recognition and hazard detection to enable autonomous safe and precise landing. This work spun off software to detect rocks in orbital imagery that was used to pick the landing site for the 2007 Mars Phoenix mission.

The award will be presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in May 2008 in Pasadena, California.

6. Bejczy to Receive AIAA Space Automation and Robotics Award

Charter RAS member Antal (Tony Bejczy), former Technical Manager at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has been selected by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) to receive the AIAA 2007 Space Automation and Robotics Award.

The Space Automation and Robotics Award is presented for leadership and technical contributions by individuals and teams in the field of space automation and robotics, and unstructured environment.

The award will be presented on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2007, during the AIAA SPACE 2007 Conference and Exposition at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, California.

The citation reads "for establishing the foundation of robotics for space applications and pioneering the development of key enabling techniques to overcome the special challenges of communication delay, operation feedback, and unstructured environment."

7. Kazuo Tanie Memorial Fund

A memorial fund has been established in honor of RAS Past President Kazuo Tanie, who died last month. Members from Japan may contact the Tanie Memorial Event Office at Waseda University.

Members from the United States who wish to contribute may send checks to the
Tanie Memorial Fund, Citibank Tellers
- Attn: Beau Wallace
2717 Texas Ave. So.
College Station, Texas 77840

Include the account number 9785728019 on the memo line. This account will be closed on September 30.

Others should contact Shigeki Sugano.

8. IEEE Fellow Nominations Due March 1, 2008

Nominations for IEEE Fellow class of 2009 are due at the IEEE on March 1, 2008. The grade of Fellow recognizes unusual distinction in the profession and shall be conferred by the Board of Directors upon a person with an extraordinary record of accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields of interest. Nominees must be Senior Members of the IEEE. For information see

9. Apply for Elevation to IEEE Senior Member

Acceptance as a Senior Member of the IEEE is recognition of a member’s experience and accomplishments as an established professional in his field. Senior Members of the IEEE are engineers, scientists, educators, technical executives or originators in IEEE-designated fields.

Candidates shall have been in professional practice for at least ten years and shall have shown significant performance over a period of at least five of those years. At least three letters of recommendation from IEEE Senior Members or Fellows are required. We encourage those members who are eligible to apply for elevation to Senior Membership. Those accepted will also receive a voucher for a one year additional society membership.

10. Imminent Deadlines/Calls for Participation

September Deadlines

September Meetings

11. How can I find Jean Whatshisname from Paris I met at IROS?

RAS Member Directory Search Tool

If Jean is an RAS member, you may be able to locate him in the RAS Member Directory with just that much information.

RAS now offers help to name-challenged members through an enhanced search function on the RAS Member Directory. If you now search for somebody on the page (or use the search plugin for Firefox or IE7), the search term you enter there is used to search in these fields:

  • Name
  • First name
  • Affiliation
  • Department
  • IEEE number
  • Email
  • City
  • State
  • Province
  • Website

All people who match (part of) the search are returned in the result set. Multiple search terms can be separated by a space. For example, searching for "r.g. Raleigh" will now return Rosalyn Snyder.

Thanks to our web designer Olaf van Zandwijk!

Note: Access to the RAS Member directory is restricted to RAS Society members who have established accounts (separate from IEEE web accounts), and members may establish privacy levels to restrict access to contact information. To request an RAS web account click "contact us" on the RAS webpage

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