History of the IRT
1957 - 1977
Univ.-Prof. Dr. phil. nat. Otto Schäfer is elected the first chairman of the Department of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering on the 1st of October 1957.
Holding his doctorate degree, Professor Schäfer (born in Offenbach am Main) gives a popular lecture on the introduction to automatic control in the winter term of 1948-1949 at the University of Frankfurt am Main. During the subsequent years, he does intensive work and research in the field of automatic control.
At the conference on "Automatic Control - Modern Theories and their Application" in 1956 in Heidelberg, Professor Schäfer participates in the editing of the section "Statistical Methods" and makes his own report on "Application of the Statistical Approach to the Analysis of Transmission Systems". He thus wants to point out that the topic deserves the attention of the experts and is worth investigating.
In 1961 the Department of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering has been split into two separate departments, and Professor Schäfer decides to stay at the former one in order to retain closer contact to the research in automatic control.
Automatic Control gradually becomes a compulsory subject for the growing number of the courses in electrical and, especially, mechanical engineering.
Professor Schäfer paid particular attention to teaching and training of the young researchers. Until his retirement in 1977, more than 7000 engineers in mechanical and electrical engineering have attended his lectures and took the examinations.
Professor Schäfer has made a considerable contribution to the development of automatic control from a specialised discipline to the method-oriented core subject of electrical and mechanical engineering.
1977 - 2001
Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Heinrich Rake (born in Rostock in 1936) is chosen a member of the Scientific Council and the Professor of the Department of the Systems Theory in 1971. Since 1977, he was the chairman of the Institute, where he had worked as senior engineer from 1966 to 1971.
In addition to teaching, which was of great importance to him and the reason why his students gave him the nickname of "Control Rake", he succeeded in establishing and maintaining multiple connections with the manufacturing companies. Such scientific policy helped the research at the Institute focus more on application.
The main research interests of Professor Rake include, among others, switching controllers, control and regulation of handling devices and of air conditioning systems, control of event-oriented processes, and system analysis. Especially noteworthy is his work in the field of the identification of technical systems, which deals with various parametric and non-parametric modelling approaches (e.g., weight sequence models), as well as with the development of the adjusted estimation procedures (e.g., so-called Adjusted Least Squares Method). Successful research on the identification resulted in the development of the first adaptive predictive controllers in the early 1980s, in which process models form the basis for a predictive optimisation of the course of the development of manipulated variables. His investigation is highly important in practice. A model-driven compact controller was protected by a patent and introduced into the market.
In addition to the high workload as a lecturer and institute director, Professor Rake is engaged in the academic self-administration issues. Since 1987 he was one of the three prorectors of the RWTH Aachen University, responsible for the department of "Budgeting and Finance". He managed to introduce important measures to increase the functional effectiveness within the University, like fair distribution of funds and preparations for the financial autonomy, to name some of them.
He supervised 60 Ph.D engineers, among them Professor Dirk Abel, his successor as the head of the Institute.
2001 - today
Since 2001 Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dirk Abel (born in 1958 in Kotthausen) is the head of the Institute, where he worked as a chief engineer from 1987 to 1993.
His research interests concern methods of regulation and control, especially predictive and robust control, modelling, identification and simulation, automation of industrial systems, hard- and software for automation systems.