IRIM Robotics Seminar—Mark W. Spong

The Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines presents “The How and Why of Robot Air Hockey” by IRIM’s second Visiting Faculty Fellow Mark W. Spong. The event will be held in the BME Whitaker Building, Room 1103, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. and is open to the public.


In this talk, we will give an overview of the CSL Air Hockey Robot, which we built as a testbed to study the integration of real-time computer vision, nonlinear control theory, and machine learning. We will describe the supervisory control architecture that we developed to enable the robot to play competitively against a human opponent.

In the second half of the talk, we will discuss the control of rigid objects through impacts. We derive a discrete-time nonlinear control system to model impact control of the air hockey puck and investigate its controllability properties. Using the Routh 2D impact model, we show that the system satisfies a type of nonlinear accessibility condition and we characterize the reachable set of puck velocities achievable through impacts with the mallet.


Mark W. Spong received the Doctor of Science degree in systems science and mathematics in 1981 from Washington University in St. Louis. He has held faculty positions at Lehigh University, Cornell University, and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Currently, he is a professor of Systems Engineering, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and holder of the Excellence in Education Chair in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Texas at Dallas. He was Dean of the Jonsson School at UT Dallas from 2008-2017. During his tenure as dean, he added four departments of engineering, nine new degree programs, and more than doubled the number of students and faculty.

Spong is past president of the IEEE Control Systems Society, and a fellow of both the IEEE and the IFAC. His main research interests are in robotics, mechatronics, and nonlinear control theory. He has authored or coauthored more than 300 technical articles, five books, and holds one patent. 

His notable awards include the 2018 Bode Lecture Prize from the IEEE Control Systems Society, the 2016 Nyquist Lecture Prize from the ASME, the 2011 Pioneer in Robotics Award from the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, the first IROS Fumio Harashima Award for Innovative Technologies in 2007, the Senior Scientist Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Distinguished Member Award from the IEEE Control Systems Society, the John R. Ragazzini and O. Hugo Schuck Awards from the American Automatic Control Council, and the IEEE Third Millennium Medal.

Event Details


  • Friday, April 13, 2018
    2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Location: BME Whitaker Building, Room 1103

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