Dr Howard was first inspired into engineering by the TV show “The Bionic Woman,” in which a severely injured woman attains extraordinary powers through artificial (bionic) limbs.
In an interview with Engineer Girl, Dr Howard said…
‘I decided at age 11 that I wanted to create artificial limbs for people. I planned to go to medical school but discovered I hated biology, especially dissecting frogs. Then I heard about robotics and realized that, if I became an engineer, I could do exactly what I wanted to do.’
Ayanna heard about robotics and realised, engineering would allow her to do what she wanted to. She developed a math and science mentoring programme for junior girls and volunteered as a tutor at a shelter for women.
Ayanna received her Bachelors in Engineering from Brown University. She went on to gain an MSc and PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California.
Ayanna’s Robotic Career
Ayanna has designed robots that can think for themselves. At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, she leads a small team of engineers and scientists. This team are tasked with advancing the intelligence of robots for future Mars missions. Because of AI, Ayanna and her team designed a robot that can explore Mars on its own. This robot is fully autonomous and does not need every move programmed by a human. On a future mission to Mars, Ayanna’s robot would be able to collect and analyze data and samples that may help determine whether life ever existed on Mars.
Ayanna is now teaching and researching at Georgia Tech where she has recently been selected to lead Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing. She works to uncover new ways that robots can help both in space exploration and in assisting people on Earth.