The Manfred Thoma medal is awarded to Prof. Ming Cao, from the Engineering and Technology institute Groningen (ENTEG
). The award recognizes outstanding contributions of a young researcher or engineer under the age of 40 to the field of systems and control in its widest sense.
Cao received the award during the opening ceremony of the World Congress of IFAC in Toulouse on July 9. It is named after Manfred M. Thoma, a leading contributor to the field of control and to IFAC, the International Federation of Automatic Control, and supporter of the careers of many young scientists. The medal is awarded by the IFAC Council on the recommendation of a selection committee. The winner receives a monetary prize together with the medal.
Autonomous robots working together
Ming Cao is Professor of Networks and Robotics at ENTEG (University of Groningen). Cao is trained as an electrical engineer and has a great interest in building mathematical models for complex systems. He has pioneered control systems allowing groups of autonomous robots to work together. Cao grew up in China and studied in the US .
Algorithms from animals
Autonomous cars and robots that take each other’s actions into account will be becoming more common in the future. Cao is working on this development with colleagues from sociology, mathematics and biology. The algorithms that have been developed for the robots are partly inspired by how animals move, particularly fish and birds, which also operate in formation. ‘We used to design robots that were simply instructed to cooperate’, explains Cao. ‘It now turns out that robots that can make decisions themselves do not automatically cooperate if they have conflicting interests. We can change that using insights from sociology about how humans cooperate.’
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