At 27, Dr. Ayanna Howard was hired by NASA to lead a team designing a robot for future Mars exploration missions that could “think like a human and adapt to change.” Her accomplishments since then include being named as one of 2015’s most powerful women engineers in the world and as one of Forbes’ 2018 U.S. Top 50 Women in Tech. From creating robots to studying the impact of global warming on the Antarctic ice shelves to founding a company that develops STEM education and therapy products for children and those with varying needs, Professor Howard focuses on our role in being responsible global citizens. In this talk, Professor Howard will delve into the implications of recent advances in robotics and AI and explain the critical importance of ensuring diversity and inclusion at all stages to reduce the risk of unconscious bias and ensuring robots are designed to be accessible to all. Throughout the talk, Professor Howard will weave in her own experience on developing new AI technologies through her technical leadership roles at NASA, Georgia Tech, and in technology startups.
Ayanna Howard, Ph.D. is the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Professor and Chair of the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She also holds a faculty appointment in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and functions as the Chief Technology Officer of Zyrobotics. Dr. Howard’s career focus is on intelligent technologies that must adapt to and function within a human-centered world. Her work, which encompasses advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), assistive technologies, and robotics, has resulted in over 250 peer-reviewed publications in a number of projects - from healthcare robots in the home to AI-powered STEM apps for children with diverse learning needs. To date, her unique accomplishments have been highlighted through a number of awards and articles, including highlights in USA Today, Upscale, and TIME Magazine, as well as being recognized as one of the 23 most powerful women engineers in the world by Business Insider and one of the Top 50 U.S. Women in Tech by Forbes. In 2013, she also founded Zyrobotics, which is currently licensing technology derived from her research and has released their first suite of STEM educational products to engage children of all abilities. Prior to Georgia Tech, Dr. Howard was a Senior Robotics Researcher and Deputy Manager in the Office of the Chief Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She has also served as the Associate Director of Research for the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines, Chair of the Robotics Ph.D. program, and the Associate Chair for Faculty Development in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech.