Record of Robotics at CMU: Part I

  • Remote Access Enabled - Zoom Webinar
  • Virtual Presentation
Alumni Event

Join the School of Computer Science and University Libraries as we take a look at the history of robotics and autonomous vehicles through the eyes of Founders University Research Professor Red Whittaker and his former student, Chris Urmson, co-founder and CEO of Aurora.  Also joining the conversation to share some exciting updates about the University Archives' work in preserving the story of robotics is Katherine Barbera, Archivist and Oral Historian at CMU.  Finally, Kevin Dowling, also a former student of Red's, will join as our special guest moderator.


About the Speakers:

William "Red" Whittaker Founders University Research Professor of Robotics

— Red is the father of field robotics.  His firsts include autonomous driving, nuclear accident cleanup, robotic excavation, tractor automation, mine truck automation, and space exploration. These breakthroughs transformed beliefs, established new disciplines, impacted the world and seeded great futures. His win of a driverless car race ignited the automotive automation industry.  At CMU, Red founded the Field Robotics Center and the National Robotics Engineering Center, spun off companies and spawned generations of roboticists.

Red is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and has received the Feigenbaum Prize, Ramo Medal and Columbia Medal, Newell Award for Research Excellence, Engelberger Award, Metcalf Award, and the Heinz Medal of Science & Innovation.  He earned his PhD degree at Carnegie Mellon University in 1975 and his undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 1973. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is the Founders University Research Professor at Carnegie Mellon and the Chairman and Chief Science Officer for Astrobotic, Inc.

Chris Urmson — Co-Founder and CEO, Aurora Innovation

— Chris Urmson is the co-founder and CEO of Aurora; a company with the mission of delivering the benefits of self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly. Chris has helped advance the development of self-driving vehicles and has built the industry for the last 15 years. Before founding Aurora, Chris helped start Google’s self-driving car program and served as CTO. Currently, Chris serves his alma mater by participating on the SCS Dean's Advisory Board.  Prior, Chris was a faculty member of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University where he worked with house-sized trucks, drove robots around in deserts, and was the technical director of the DARPA Urban and Grand Challenge teams. He earned his Ph.D. in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University and his BSc in computer engineering from the University of Manitoba in 1998.

Katherine Barbera — University Archives,  Archivist and Oral Historian

— Katherine Barbera is an archivist and oral historian at Carnegie Mellon University. She is the assistant archivist in the University Archives, founder of the CMU Oral History Program, and project lead for The Robot Archive. Her work blends archival and public history methods to expand community engagement with archives and archival collections.  She serves on the Society of American Archivists’ Committee on Public Awareness and is a co-founder of Three Rivers Archivists, a regional professional advocacy group in Pittsburgh. Barbera holds an M.A. in Public History from Duquesne University.

Kevin Dowling — CEO, Kaarta 

— Kevin is the CEO of Kaarta in Pittsburgh, PA. His background spans the fields of robotics, semiconductors, lighting, wearable electronics and consumer products, having most recently served as VP of Engineering for 4moms, the popular developer of high-tech baby gear.   Previously, he was VP of Research and Development for MC10, where he built the engineering organization from the ground up to realize market success in stretchable electronics, including a milestone partnership with Reebok.  At Color Kinetics, the pioneer of intelligent LED lighting, he played a key leadership role in technology strategy and intellectual property, and helped position the company for its IPO and ensuing successful sale to Philips for nearly $800 million. Kevin is an inventor on more than 70 issued patents.  He received his BS in Mathematics and MS and PhD degrees in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, where he spent two decades as a student, research engineer and scientist at the prestigious Field Robotics Center.