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News Release
May 15, 1997
Sandian Receives World's Most Prestigious Robotics Honor

Albuquerque, N.M. -- Pat Eicker, Director of Intelligent Systems and Robotics at Sandia National Laboratories, has been named the 1997 recipient of the Joseph F. Engelberger Robotics Award for leadership.

The Engelberger Robotics Award, deemed the world's most prestigious robotics honor, is awarded each year by the Robotic Industries Association in four categories leadership, technology development, application, and education. The leadership award recognizes outstanding individual contribution to the robotics industry. Candidates must be well known in the international robotics community for their ongoing dedication, involvement, and leadership.

"Your leadership in establishing the Intelligent Systems and Robotics Center at Sandia as one of the world's premier centers for robotics research, and the excellent work you are doing to bring the Robotics and Intelligent Machines Coordinating Council to fruition is being recognized by the presentation of this prestigious international award," said Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president of the Robotic Industries Association.

The award was presented May 12 in Detroit, Mich., and is named after Joseph F. Engelberger, known throughout the world as "the father of robotics." Engelberger was founder and first president of Unimation, Inc., the world's first industrial robot manufacturer. He also was a founder of the Robotic Industries Association in 1974.

Eicker has been director of the Intelligent Systems and Robotics Center at Sandia since 1992 and was instrumental in the development of Sandia's robotics program in the mid-1980s. He earned a doctorate in mathematics and statistics from Colorado State University in 1969.

"Receiving the award for leadership versus one of the other categories is particularly gratifying since I take very seriously the responsibility of a national laboratory to provide leadership, in the national enterprise as well as in specific technical areas," Eicker said.

Eicker said the award also recognizes the quality of the robotics program's 150 multidisciplinary researchers who work closely with the Department of Energy, industry and universities to develop applications for national security, environmental cleanup and the nation's growing industrial and technological needs.

Last October, Sandia dedicated a new $33-million, 73,000-square-foot Robotic Manufacturing Science and Engineering Laboratory (RMSEL), the largest robotics research and development program in the United States. The center is unique in its integrated approach to developing application solutions, and is a world leader in research and development of system software and information architecture, automated planning and programming, and sensor and model-based control for intelligent systems.

The center develops diverse applications that range from manufacturing, materials handling, remediation of environmentally contaminated sites, to battlefield robots. In the area of industrial applications, Sandia has developed intelligent machines to carry out such diverse tasks as packaging, painting, chemical and physical characterization, cleaning, assembly, disassembly, soldering, explosive powder dispensing, and deburring/edge finishing.

Eicker also was instrumental in organizing the National Needs Workshop on Robotics held immediately after RMSEL's dedication to identify barriers to wider use of automation, and to formulate plans to overcome them. About 70 robotics experts from throughout the country representing industry, vendors, universities, and the national laboratories attended the workshop, which was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

The workshop provided a big step in solidifying support and cooperation among all segments of the robotics and intelligent machines community, from users and suppliers to those involved in research and development. The workshop also helped firm up support among policymakers in Washington for a national robotics and intelligent machines initiative.

A white paper summarizing workshop discussion and accomplishments was issued late last year by the workshop's organizers: The Robotics and Intelligent Machines Coordinating Council, composed of members from industry, universities and government; and a joint committee of the Robotic Industries Association and the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.

Sandia is a multiprogram Department of Energy laboratory, operated by a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation. With facilities located in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy, environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy.
Media contact:
Chris Miller, cmiller@sandia.gov (505) 844-5550

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