Hundreds gathered at the annual IEEE Honors Ceremony held on 25 May at the Palace Hotel, in San Francisco, to celebrate the achievements of the brightest minds in engineering. This year’s award recipients are leaders in a variety of fields including machine learning, wireless communications, and more.
Among the 21 people honored was IEEE Life Fellow John T. Barr, IV. He received the IEEE Haraden Pratt Award “for sustained leadership and service across IEEE and at the society level.” During his acceptance speech, Barr said, “Some 48 years later, I’m not sure why I started volunteering,” as the audience laughed. “But I continue because of the benefits that IEEE volunteers bring to their communities.”
Another Life Fellow, John S. Baras, received the IEEE Simon Ramo Medal “for exceptional contributions to the conception and commercialization of Internet-over-satellite systems, and for leadership in model-based engineering, systems science, and engineering research.”
“When you fly on a plane, and use the Internet over the ocean, remember me,” he said in explaining his work. “That’s what I tell my wife when she asks me, ‘What the heck do you do?’”
He added that “it’s not often in one’s life that you can take a daring idea like Internet-over-satellite—going against the current wisdom when everybody says it cannot be done—and do it.” His commercialization of Internet-over-satellite systems created a new industry that has made high-speed Internet services in rural and underdeveloped areas possible, and has improved telemedicine, disaster relief, and ship communications.
Vladamir Vapnik received the IEEE John von Neuman Medal “for the development of statistical learning theory, the theoretical foundations for machine learning, and support vector machines.” He said he was honored to receive this award, which was named after his role model. “John von Neuman was my hero,” he said. “He made digital volt from nothing. Now our challenge is to make smart machines, which not only imitates intelligence, but also are really intelligent.”
IEEE Fellow Alberto Broggi received the IEEE Medal for Environmental and Safety Technologies “for leadership in vehicular environmental perception, and for setting worldwide milestones in safe and reliable intelligent vehicles.”
“When I started 25-plus years ago, no one considered driverless vehicles as a real and serious industrial business,” he said. “But things have changed. Now every single carmaker has a department working on autonomous vehicles. Many companies have their own self-driving vehicles being tested on roads as we speak.”
The IEEE Honorary Membership went to Sir James Dyson “for achievements in industrial design, entrepreneurship, and manufacturing technology, and for services to the engineering profession.” The creator of the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner, Dyson developed more than 5,120 prototypes of his product, the G-Force cleaner, which found success in Japan in 1983. Soon after, it was a bestseller in the United Kingdom. The Dyson company is now is now a multibillion-dollar business.
And closing the night was the IEEE Medal of Honor recipient, Kees Schouhamer Immink, “for pioneering contributions to video, audio, and data recording technology, including compact disc, DVD, and Blu-ray.”
“This is a very emotional moment for me, being bestowed the highest honor the electrical engineering community has—the IEEE Medal of Honor,” he said. “To the class of upcoming engineers, enjoy the years of your youth. Follow your heart. And make the world a better place. You were educated to change the world.”