Ayanna Howard | Chair of the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech   

“I believe that every engineer has a responsibility to make the world a better place. We are gifted with an amazing power to take people’s wishes and make them a reality.” – Dr. Howard (Video)

Ayanna Howard is an American roboticist and the School Chair for Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology. She is also the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Endowed Chair in Bioengineering in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the director of the Human-Automation Systems Lab where she and her team study and develop techniques to enhance the autonomous capabilities of intelligent systems in different areas such as Human-Robot Interaction, Assistive Robotics, Education and Robotics, Robot Learning, Human-Robot Trust, and Space and Field Robotics.

In 2021, Howard will take up the position of Dean of Engineering at The Ohio State University. Her contributions to robotics have been recognized many times since 2013. She received an A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award in 2014 from the Anita Borg Institute. In 2015, she was listed in The Root 100 website, as one of the most prestigious African American achievers, and recognized by Business Insider as one of the ’23 most powerful women engineers in the world’. In 2016 she received the Computer Research Association’s A. Nico Habermann Award and Brown Engineering Alumni Medal.

She was an AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador from 2016 to 2017 which is designed to showcase the modern voices that are addressing the grand challenges facing humanity and to influence policy makers. She also received the Richard A. Tapia Achievement Award in 2018 for her contribution in bringing girls, underrepresented minorities, and people with disabilities into computing through programs related to robotics. In 2020, for the demonstrable and sustained societal impact of her work she received the Georgia Tech Outstanding Achievement in Research Innovation Award 2020.

In 2020, Howard co-founded the Black in Robotics community organization, and also became the first black woman to achieve IEEE RAS Fellow status for her contributions to human-robot interaction systems. She has more than 350 papers, 4000 citations, and recently published an audiobook “Sex, Race, and Robots: How to Be Human in the Age of AI”  about how the tech world’s racial and sexual biases are infecting the next generation of robots and AI, with profoundly negative effects for humans of all genders and races.

Howard also founded Zyrobotics where she has been developing assistive technologies for children with disabilities. “Robots can improve quality of life; Humans inherently trust them”, says Howard in her TedX talk where she explains how humans develop emotional attachments to social or interactive robots. You can find her on twitter at @robotsmarts