Director, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BSc (Hons) 1976 MSc 1978
I was at Flinders from 1972 until August 1977. Back then Maths was a School by itself and that's where I was from day one. But there was also a 16Kbyte IBM computer (with four full time operators) where we could submit computer "jobs" on punched cards and get back our printouts a day later.
That, along with the Flinders University Football Club A7's, was my real passion. By my second year Dr. Jerry Kautsky had arranged for me and Kym Haines to have the University's only computer all to ourselves for 12 hours every Sunday. That's where we learned everything about computer science by having to figure out how to write operating systems and compilers and user interfaces all by ourselves.
They were great days!
After finishing a Master's in Maths, I headed to Stanford in Silicon Valley for a PhD, right when the computer industry was starting to take off there. I got involved in computer vision and robotics at Stanford and I got to work with one of only three mobile robots in the world at that time.
I went on to post-docs at Carnegie Mellon University and at MIT, then a faculty position at Stanford, and in 1984 I joined the faculty at MIT where I have been ever since. I set up a mobile robot group there and started developing robots that led to the Mars planetary rovers. These days I'm Director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), with 93 faculty and 470 post graduate students. My own students and I build humanoid robots at MIT. I've also founded a few companies along the way, and I'm still Chief Technical Officer of iRobot Corporation which I started with two students in 1990. We're a publicly listed company (NASDAQ: IRBT) and have manufactured and sold more than two million robots.
Thanks so much to Jerry Kautsky at Flinders for giving me my start!
Rod received the 1994 Convocation Medal.