Roberta Nelson Shea of Universal Robots Receives Engelberger Award for Her Contributions to Robot Safety

The global technical compliance officer received the 'Nobel Prize of robotics' during Automate 2023.

Universal Robots

Roberta Nelson Shea accepts Engelberger Award from A3 Vice President Alex Shikany.
Roberta Nelson Shea received the Engelbarger Award for Application at Automate 2023 for her contribution to global robotics safety efforts across her 40-year career.

DETROIT—For the second time within five years, a key figure at collaborative robotics leader Universal Robots A/S has received the prestigious Joseph F. Engelberger Robotics Award. Roberta Nelson Shea, global technical compliance officer at Universal Robots, accepted the award in the Application category at a ceremony last night at Automate 2023.

Nelson Shea followed in the footsteps of Universal Robots co-founder Esben Østergaard, who was given the Engelberger Award in 2018 in the Technology category.

The Application category recognizes individuals or organizations that have made a significant contribution to the development of robotics technology and its practical application. Nelson Shea won the award for her outstanding work related to robotics safety across the world.

She has been a central figure in the development of industrial robot safety standards in North America and around the world, noted Universal Robots. As the convenor of the ISO (International Organization for Standards) committee, Nelson Shea led the introduction of ISO/TS 15066, which is the first document that defines standardized safety requirements within human-robot collaboration.

“I am extremely honored to be receiving this award,” she stated. “I see it as an acknowledgement of not just my own work, but also of Universal Robots’ and Teradyne’s commitment to safety.”

“This award is a recognition of all who have contributed to robot safety over the years,” Nelson Shea said. “When I started in this field more than four decades ago, I felt I had a personal mission and that there was no one else who signed up for it with me. Now, especially after the emergence of collaborative robot applications, we are all aligned on the importance of safety.”

Roberta Nelson Shea with Engelberger Award medal

Roberta Nelson Shea with Engelberger Award medal. Source: Universal Robots

UR, robotics industry mark progress

In recent years, other women have received Engelberger Awards, which Nelson Shea said is another indication of how robotics has evolved since she first started in the industry in 1982.

“Luckily, I am not the first woman to receive this award, but with women still being outnumbered in the robotics industry, I hope my career can also be an inspiration to younger women because they have an important role to play in the future development of both robotics and technology in general,” she said.

Kim Povlsen, president of Universal Robots, also acknowledged Nelson Shea’s achievements.

“This award is a testament to the great contribution Roberta has made to the robotics industry,” he said. “In robotics, and especially when it comes to cobots, safety is always the top priority.”

“Roberta’s dedication to safety has helped create the standards for the interaction between people and robots,” said Povlsen. “This has been a vital contribution to the collaborative relationship we see today between humans and cobots across thousands of workplaces.”

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) hosted Automate and the award ceremony. Odense, Denmark-based Universal Robots was founded in 2008 and said it has sold more than 50,000 cobots worldwide.

Editor's note: For more around Automate 2023, visit Robotics 24/7's special coverage page.

Roberta Nelson Shea of Universal Robots and an Engelberger Award winner discusses robot safety.

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Universal Robots

Roberta Nelson Shea accepts Engelberger Award from A3 Vice President Alex Shikany.

Robot Technologies