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Wildly innovative CMU researchers receive nod from Obama

Two Carnegie Mellon University researchers received the highest honor in the land from President Barack Obama this week.
Luis Von Ahn, 33, associate professor of Computer Science, was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, bestowed upon professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. John Kitchin, an associate professor of chemical engineering, was also honored.
Von Ahn has been repeatedly feted for his innovative research in human computation as it relates to machine translation, which has set the standard for human-computer cooperation. Google acquired his online puzzle tool, reCAPTCHA, a  ubiquitous presence online today. His most recent project, Duolingo, helps people to learn a second language through online text translation. 
Kitchin and his team developed an electrochemical separation method for separating oxygen from air at ambient pressure and temperature, work that is advancing the future of clean energy through CO2 capture.
The duo were among 96 recipients announced by the White House. Von Ahn was among 20 nominated by the National Science Foundation. Kitchin was nominated by the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy.
In other award news, William “Red” Whittaker, a professor in CMU’s Robotics Institute, received the 2012 Simon Ramo Medal this summer by IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization.
Whittaker, the force behind the Tartan racing team that developed a driverless SUV, and the lunar moon race, has developed more than 60 robots through the years, many that work in inhospitable environments, places such as contaminated nuclear plants, abandoned mines, active volcanoes.
The medal, sponsored by Northrop Grumman Corporation, recognizes Whittaker for his pioneering contributions to mobile autonomous robotics, field applications of robotics and systems engineering.
His current focus is Astrobotic Technology, a CMU spinoff firm that is developing space robotics technology to support planetary missions and organizing a commercial venture to land a robot on the moon in 2015. He also founded two other spinoffs--RedZone Robotics and Workhorse Technologies--and the Robotics Institute’s National Robotics Engineering Center.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: CMU
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