Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Inventor of the Roomba honoured by SME

May 7, 2010
By Mary Del

Robots used for both business and consumers aren’t the stuff of science fiction anymore thanks to the contributions of Rodney Brooks, PhD. Brooks is a robotics entrepreneur, founder, chairman and chief technology officer of Heartland Robotics Inc., which focuses on creating affordable robots to increase productivity and revive manufacturing. He is also a founder, board member and former CTO of iRobot Corp., known for the consumer-oriented robot the Roomba®.

In acknowledgement of this work, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) recently announced that Brooks will receive SME’s highest recognition, Honorary Membership.


“SME reserves this recognition for those who have exhibited professional eminence in our industry,” said Mark C. Tomlinson, executive director and general manager of SME. “Dr. Brooks’ work in robotics has achieved international prominence and his passion and genius are known throughout the science, engineering and manufacturing worlds.”



Tomlinson adds, “We are pleased to add him among such distinguished past recipients as Charles Knight, chairman emeritus of Emerson, the late Henry Ford II and Ronald Sugar, chairman emeritus of Northrop Grumman Corp.”


Prior to his foray into business, Brooks also achieved an outstanding career in academia. He is the former director of both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He also has held research and faculty positions at such prestigious universities as Carnegie Mellon and Stanford.


A native of Australia, he received degrees in pure mathematics from Flinders University in South Australia and a PhD in computer science from Stanford.


For his many accomplishments, Brooks is a fellow of numerous science and engineering societies in Australia and the United States.


Brooks will be honored during SME’s International Awards Gala at the Bridging the Gaps: SME 2010 Annual Conference. The conference (, scheduled for June 6-8, 2010, in Nashville, Tenn., at the Sheraton Music City Hotel, is expected to draw manufacturing professionals from around the world who are interested in sharing new manufacturing ideas, discussing the latest developments and finding real solutions to their challenges.


The International Awards Gala will take place Monday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Sheraton.


Other conference highlights include breakout sessions based on SME’s well-known Innovations that Could Change the Way You Manufacture, a tour of Gibson Guitar’s Custom, Art and Historic Division as well as a Breakfast Keynote from Brooks on June 7 where he will share his goal for creating a powerful evolution in the world’s labor markets and his vision for developing low-cost robots designed to empower American manufacturing workers.


“Dr. Brooks is a tremendous asset to our Conference and his international reputation lends itself to our global goal to be recognized as a premier source for manufacturing knowledge,” said Tomlinson.

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