Dr. Mark W. Spong, holder of the Excellence in Education Chair at UT Dallas, is recipient of the 2018 Hendrik W. Bode Lecture Prize awarded by the Control Systems Society of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), the world’s largest technical professional organization for the advancement of technology.
The prestigious honor recognizes distinguished contributions to control systems science or engineering. Spong, professor of systems engineering and electrical and computer engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, has produced innovative solutions in robotics that have stood the test of time to become now-classic results in robotic control.
As recipient of the award, Spong will deliver a plenary lecture at the 57th IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, which will be held Dec. 17 – 19, 2018, in Miami Beach, Florida.
“The Bode Lecture Prize is one of my most humbling accolades,” said Spong, dean of the Jonsson School from 2008 – 2017. “In my talk, if I can provide a fraction of the inspiration and insight as the esteemed recipients who have gone before me, then I will consider the lecture a success.”
Spong’s work has been instrumental in establishing the theoretical foundations of robot control, and the results he produced over the past three decades have been implemented in systems at companies and research development facilities around the world, including Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
Among his innovations is the development of the first practical solution to the problem of time-delay compensation in bilateral teleoperation, which was a major impediment to the development of undersea and space robots. Spong was also the first to show how poor performance in robot arms due to uncertainties and joint elasticity could be overcome with advanced nonlinear feedback control methods that he helped to develop.
Spong has also had a major impact on robotics education. He is the co-author of several textbooks, including one of the most popular on robot dynamics and control that is still in use after more than 25 years. In addition, Spong developed both hardware and software, marketed by a company he founded (Mechatronics Systems Inc.), which are being used by more than 200 universities around the world.
He received his BA magna cum lade and Phi Beta Kappa in mathematics and physics from Hiram College, his MS in mathematics from New Mexico State University and an MS and DSc in systems science and mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis. He began his academic career at Lehigh University and from 1982 to 1984 taught at Cornell University. He then joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he was a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the Donald Biggar Willett Professor of Engineering.
Spong’s tenure as dean of the Jonsson School from 2008 until last fall was marked by exceptional growth in many measures of academic excellence: research expenditures; tenured and tenure-track faculty members; departments; degree programs; enrollment; endowed chairs and professors; and facilities. He also created the corporate-sponsored, team-oriented capstone experience known as UTDesign®, which already has earned a tradition of winning national capstone and design awards.
He is the recipient of numerous other recognitions for his solutions. Among Spong’s most recent accolades are inclusion last year onto Google Scholar’s list of the ten most-cited articles in robotics that were published ten years prior; the 2016 Nyquist Lecturer Prize awarded by the Dynamic Systems and Control Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; election as a Fellow of the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC); and the Pioneer Award given by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.