MassRobotics, a leading robotics innovation organization, announced its inaugural Robotics Medal and Rising Star recipients at the IEEE ICRA conference in London on June 1, 2023. The Robotics Medal is the world’s first major prize to recognize the wide-ranging impact of female researchers focusing on the development of robotics around the globe. The Robotics Medal is awarded to a woman-identifying student/faculty nominated professor in robotics to recognize their impactful contributions to the field and includes a $50K prize awarded to the individual. The Rising Star Award recognizes up and coming woman-identifying persons making strides and advancing the field of robotics and includes a $5K award given to the individual.

This inaugural MassRobotics Robotics Medal award, sponsored by Amazon Robotics, was presented to Nancy Amato at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for her significant contributions to the field of robotics, notably for her research on the algorithmic foundations of motion planning, computational biology, computational geometry, and parallel computing. Alyssa Nicole Pierson, at Boston University, was awarded the MassRobotics Rising Star in Robotics Medal for her key contributions to the cooperative, distributed control of multi-agent teams.

To encourage diversity in the field of robotics, Amazon established an endowment with MassRobotics in 2022 to support these two annual awards. The purpose of The Robotics Medal is not only to celebrate individual achievements, but also to inspire and encourage women and other underrepresented groups to participate in shaping the future of the world through robotics.  

“By endowing the Robotics Medal, we aspire to showcase and celebrate women robotics professors worldwide who have made a significant impact to the advancement of the field of robotics,” said Tye Brady, chief technologist at Amazon Robotics.  “It is an honor to be the founding sponsor of the Robotics Medal and we are thankful for the significant contributions and teachings made by our rising stars and legendary pioneers in that field.”  

A call for nominations began at last year’s ICRA conference, with nominations coming from all around the United States including Texas, Washington, Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania, as well as around the globe from countries including Canada, Japan, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Switzerland, and India. Submissions spanned a wide range of robotic technology fields and areas of research, from new materials for gripping, exoskeletons and assistive technologies, human robot interaction and motion planning.

Since 2017, MassRobotics has grown from a Massachusetts-based incubator to a global robotics hub, helping support the adoption of robotics worldwide and providing startups with the resources needed to grow and scale. Of the current 80 startups that MassRoboitcs houses at its facility in Boston, more than 50% are from out of state and 25% are from outside the U.S. 

MassRobotics hosts STEM and robotics related initiatives specifically targeted for high school women and continues to promote women in robotics through events and networking to ensure women are recognized and heard.

“We were thrilled by the overwhelming number of qualified nominations we received and impressed with the diversity of robotic fields and research happening across the globe” said Joyce Sidopoulos, cofounder at MassRobotics. “It reflects the powerful contributions women have made and will continue to make to this important, vibrant and growing field supporting nearly all industries.” 

The Robotics Medal and Rising Star recipients were selected by a committee of robotics experts, led by MassRobotics, which convened several times and methodically evaluated the significance, depth and originality of technical contributions each nominee has made in the overall field of robotics. 

“The field of robotics requires the unique insights, inventiveness, and leadership of more female professionals to propel the science, engineering, and applications of this crucial discipline forward, and to inspire the ensuing wave of innovators,” says Daniela Rus, Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT and member of the MassRobotics board. “The Robotics Medal signifies far more than its substantial monetary award. It symbolizes an acknowledgement and celebration of the remarkable achievements of women who not only pioneer in the field, but also inspire as role models, sparking the curiosity and ambition of the forthcoming generation of roboticists.” 

A formal Gala awarding the medals and celebrating the winners will be held in Boston at the Museum of Science on October 21st. The Museum of Science will highlight the medal winners in their ongoing Women in Technology initiative. Tickets and reserved tables for the event will be available shortly.

MassRobotics has created an endowment and welcomes contributions to support future cash prizes for The Robotics Medal. Contact to learn about becoming a founding underwriter of The Robotics Medal. Nominations for the 2024 Robotics Medal and Rising Star are now open. More information can be found here.