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This Black Woman is one of the world’s leaders in robot creation

Ayanna Howard is an electrical engineer who has made major advances and contributions to the field of robotics.  She was born in Providence, Rhode Island and graduated from John Muir High School in Pasadena, California.  She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from Brown University and her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in engineering from the University of Southern California.  She also holds an MBA from Claremont Graduate University.

Her graduate dissertation was entitled, “Recursive Learning for Deformable Object Manipulation,” which drew on her work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and focused on humanized intelligence, which allows human cognitive capability to be embedded into the control path of autonomous systems.  During her time at the laboratory, she helped develop the next generation Mars Rover, which uses artificial intelligence to be capable of exploring Mars’ terrain through independent thought rather than programming.

After her work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Howard was offered a position at the Georgia Institute of Technology as an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  While there, she has started her own laboratory, the Human-Automation Systems (HumAnS) Lab, which focuses on how to enhance the autonomy of robot functionality.

Howard has won considerable acclaim for her work.  Her SnoMote robots have been internationally recognized for their ability to study climate change in remote areas, and she has published over one hundred academic papers.  She has also won several prestigious awards including the 2001 Lew Allen Award for Excellence in Research, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Early Career Award in Robotics and Automation in 2005, and the National Society of Black Engineers Janice Lampkin Educator Award in 2009.  She was also named one of the Top 100 Young Innovators of the Year in 2003 by MIT Technology Review and received the Engineer of the Year Award in 2004 by the Los Angeles Council of Engineers and Scientists.

Howard says that her inspiration for her career came from the TV show “The Bionic Woman,” which features a women who gains extraordinary powers from bionic limbs after being injured.  Howard became interested in robotics after deciding not to attend medical school.  She has shared her knowledge and skill by developing a math and science mentoring program for middle school girls and also by volunteering as a computer tutor at a shelter for battered women.

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14 thoughts on “This Black Woman is one of the world’s leaders in robot creation

  1. Rev. George Brooks

    I certainly hope, and would like to speak privately with her, that at some point Ayanna Howard goes out on her own, and establishes her own lab, and becomes independent of these major WHITE-OWN and RUN companies. For she may be doing great things now, but she will still be controlled, influenced, and bossed. She needs to be HER OWN BOSS, as was the great George Washington Carver, and a number of other black scientists and investors. And myself, and a few other blacks intend to get in touch with her, privately, to have a talk with her, in the future. — Rev. George Brooks, at (615) 494-9056.

    • TheRam28

      I’ve never heard of this pioneer and I’m an avid reader, and probably would not have if it was not for this site. I agree with you, and what a model she could be for young black women. I recently read the contributions Blacks made at NASA in the early days. I have read of many brilliant Black scientist who continue to work for the system. They don’t seem to lift a finger to reach back and pull some others along. They have forgotten the many who have died so that they can have the right to pursue their dreams.

    • Barbara

      Those are good suggestions Rev. Brooks; but it’s not a good idea to publish your phone number so publicly.

      • Rev. George Brooks

        It just so happens that the phone number listed is not my own personal number, and no one can reach me directly. And, in fact, I do NOT talk with anyone privately unless it’s family members, associates, or others that I specifically care to speak with. AND I have an “army” of folks that anyone has to go through to reach me, including SEVEN “big, bad and bold” SONS, and several others that are like sons, as well as other family members and others that as part of my association. AND, I have only been a minister since 2002, but involved in community activism and journalism for over 40 years. And my ministry is different from ALL others. — Rev. George Brooks

  2. cora b

    My heartest and pryerful congratulations to Ms. Howard, ansd may the God of Heaven dcontinue His bountfulblessing on you.

    Keep your head up high ane know that the Almigjty will keep you in perfect peace with yiour mind stayed on Him.

    The best fir tyour desure to do something for God’s people. Love and respect for youi and yours.

    Mrs. Cora B. Johnson

    Chicago, IL.

  3. Biodun Beck

    @Rev.George Brooks.
    I agree with you 100%. Absolute Economic Independence for Blacks all over the world would be one of the best ways to annihilate racism.The Brazilian Blacks are just embracing your idea with urge successes.

    • Bert C

      While I agree with your enthusiasm about the progress Blacks are making in Brazil I recently read where there is a rush to be Black in Brazil. It is my understanding all you have to do is state they you are Black if you have a tan. Also, there are ongoing issues with the process. The danger of a people who have had nothing is to jump at anything. This is universally known Whites will not let go of their power to Blacks. But like you progress is good.

  4. Eddie Donahoo ka heru ben pathera harakalti

    I definitely agree totally optimistically that Ms.Howard is a genius.
    However when we rush to copyright and trademark our innovative creations in any country;we must be aware of the ramifications of individuals privatizing our intellectual developments.

    We as african people or African American people must have our own incorporated NASA.

    We Must Also Have Our Own Federal reserve and and African Union and international African banking partner’s stronger or as strong as the European union EU.

    The more we share about microbe :bacterias and missile guidance system’s and thing’s we must say ….will these things be used for Bad..more than not yes.Even though your super smart it’s a double edged sword who are you sharing your intelligence with.

    Some idea’s may have to be took to the crave and never patented that’s how I feel about my own contraptions.

    Also you consider that electrical car technology and free energy technologies have been around for decade’s and look how the mainstream corporations
    Reject integrating these product’s into society.

  5. Desmond Thomas

    The article about this engineering marvel is simply unbelievable.Has she patented any of her robots which the United Nations may buy from her to be deployed in African countries such as Mozambique and Angola, where there are still a few million landmines brought about by the brutal civil wars which lasted for 27 years as was the case in Angola?
    Thank you very much.


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