History of the Society

From Council to Society, by Antal (Tony) Bejczy

 The year 2007 can be considered the 20th year of existence of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS). It might be then useful for the younger generation to know how the birth of RAS came about. I was very close to the RAS™s birth because my position as President of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Council (RAC) in 1987 required me to assist in the transition from Council to Society. I prepared the following brief notes based on my 1983-1989 IEEE files.

The initial IEEE Robotics and Automation (R&A) entity, the RAC, was founded in 1984, led by George Saridis, who was elected the first RAC President. The existence of the council was justified by the growing number of R&A papers, tutorial and workshop proposals submitted to the IEEE Control Systems Society (CSS), the Computer Society, and other journals and by the overall growing interest in industrial and R&D-oriented R&A.

Unlike IEEE societies, whose membership is made up of individual IEEE members, the members of IEEE Councils are societies. The eight founding societies of the RAC were Aerospace and Electronic Systems; Circuits and Systems; Components, Hybrids, and Manufacturing Technology; Computers; Control Systems; Industrial Electronics; Industry Applications; and Systems, Man and Cybernetics. Saridis and many others of the original RAC officers were from CSS, where I had previously chaired the CSS R&A Committee. The representatives of the eight sponsoring societies constituted the voting members of the Council Administrative Committee (AdCom), and occasional nonvoting observers or guests participated in RAC meetings. The RAC was established to provide focus for IEEE activities in the R&A field. The Council authorities, procedures, and duties were formulated in a Constitution and Bylaws following IEEE standards and rules. The Council had two meetings per year, chaired by the Council President elected each year by the RAC AdCom.

The RAC initiated and sponsored three major activities and products to help create accessible and measurable data and impressions for R&A interests within IEEE and even beyond:

  • IEEE Journal of Robotics and Automation, edited by George Bekey
  • IEEE RAC Newsletter (which later became IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine), edited by Wesley Snyder
  • IEEE International Conferences on R&A (ICRA).Annual, starting in Atlanta, GA, in 1984 (under the IEEE Computer Society Technical Committee (TC) on Robotics); then in St. Louis, MO, in 1985; in San Francisco, CA, in 1986; in Raleigh, NC, in 1987; and in Philadelphia, PA, in 1988.

Full History of IEEE RAS

This article was published in the proceedings of the IEEE History Conference This paper appears in: History of Technical Societies, 2009 IEEE Conference, 5-7 Aug. 2009 pages 1-7. An earlier version was published in IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine.

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