Dennis Hong, Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering Professor, Leading Robotics Innovation

Posted on November 5, 2011  Comments (5)

Dennis Hong is the U.S. star in humanoid robotics

Hong came by his interest in science naturally. He was born in 1971 on the exclusive Palos Verdes Peninsula, outside Los Angeles, and his father, Yong Shik Hong, worked as an aerospace engineer at the federally funded Aerospace Corp. The family returned to Seoul in 1974 so the elder Hong could lead South Korea’s short-range missile program, at the bidding of then-President Park Chung Hee.

Korean fathers of that era were strict and remote. Hong’s father was engaged and intellectually indulgent. He installed a work bench in Dennis’s room when he was 4, complete with a hammer and saw. He led the children in chemistry experiments and brought home model airplanes from America.

Dennis Hong built things with scraps of wood and metal and bits of plastic. He disassembled toys and stored the parts in a chest beneath his bed.

“We spent a lot of time building things and breaking things,” said Julie Hong, Hong’s older sister. “He was the one who broke things the most and built things the most.”

Hong traveled to America to complete his university study, following his father’s credo, “Big fish must swim in the big sea.” He earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin and a master’s and doctorate at Purdue.

Dennis’ success illustrates several themes repeated in posts on this blog: the USA attracting talent from overseas, kids curiosity and exposure to science and engineering leading to great things, the value of strong science and engineering programs and professors. Robotics continue to progress very quickly. The economic impact of robotics is large already (largely in manufacturing) and will continue to grow dramatically. Likely robots will find their way into much more diverse areas over the next 2 decades. The Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, lead by Dennis Hong, seems poised to play a big role in that future.

Related: Robocup 2010, Robot FootballSoft Morphing Robot FutureEvolution of Altruism in RobotsToyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair

In 2011 Virginia Tech finally won the humanoid sized RoboCup challenge, bringing the trophy to the USA for the 1st time [corrected based on comment from Dennis Hong]. Japan has took home the 7 straight victories, followed by 2 for Germany before Virginia Tech took the latest victory. RoboCup aims to result in a team of robots that can beat a human team by 2050. As you can see from the video they have a long way to go.

5 Responses to “Dennis Hong, Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering Professor, Leading Robotics Innovation”

  1. Dennis Hong
    November 6th, 2011 @ 1:03 am

    It is actually the very first time US won the Louis Vuitton Cup. WHen it came to the US in 2007, it was because RoboCUp was held in the US. Japan took it for 7 years straight, then Germany took it for 2 years, and we brought it to the USA for the first time this year! 🙂

  2. Louie
    November 7th, 2011 @ 12:16 am

    That is one amazing robot! Thanks for sharing this wonderful article. Dennis is surely very talented and wish him all the success in his chose field. This post will surely go to my bookmark!

  3. Jenni
    November 8th, 2011 @ 8:01 am

    That video is pretty amazing, even though robots have a long way to go yet, I can see humanoid robots solving a lot of the world’s problems in years to come.

  4. Gareth
    November 19th, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

    It’s amazing what we thought was fantasy a few years ago is now real and out there. The use of robots can be a great source to help man archive more.

  5. Jamaal Talsky
    February 14th, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

    nice site…robots of the human or dog kind possibly first will come sooner than we think.
    thanks for the vid

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