Sprinting Toward a Bionic Future

Dr. Ayanna Howard is Professor and Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Endowed Chair in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She also holds the position of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Zyrobotics, a Georgia Tech spin-off company.  Her work, which encompasses advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), assistive technologies, and robotics, has resulted in over 200 peer-reviewed publications in a number of projects – from assistive robots in the home to AI-powered STEM apps for children with diverse learning needs. She has over 20 years of R&D experience covering a number of projects that have been supported by various agencies including: National Science Foundation, NewSchools Venture Fund, Procter and Gamble, NASA, and the Grammy Foundation.

As the FETC 2018 STEM keynoter, Dr. Howard will present “How Ed Tech Can Fill the LD Gaps” and “STEM Keynote: The Value of Inclusive STEM Education: Robots and their Role in our Future“. For more information on her sessions, visit the FETC website here.

Dr. Ayanna Howard, as a teacher and lecturer, is a storyteller. A huge science fiction fan growing up, she was determined at an early age that she was going to build a bionic woman after being inspired by the television show of the same name. At the time she did not know that the technology she would need to make someone better, stronger, and faster through biomechanical improvements was only the figment of a writer’s imagination and had yet to be invented. But Ayanna was always good at math; in middle school, at the age of 12 she loved to design, build, and tinker with simple engines and machines. Her academic career started to ascend, so she started mapping her path to build a bionic woman.

She worked for NASA for 12 years and then entered the academic world as a professor and researcher, building her expertise in robotics and engineering the entire way. She has made significant contributions in the technology areas of artificial intelligence, computer vision, and robotics in her professional career. Dr. Howard is currently a Professor and the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Endowed Chair in Bioengineering at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Dr. Howard recently sat down with Dr. Rod Berger to discuss her early passions for science, technology, and math.

She says, “We have to teach the student from a very early age how to learn from failure. We have to teach them not to give up so easily. Too many give up too soon before the lesson is learned. We need to teach them that there is an out, a next, a way BEYOND the problem.” Dr. Howard shares the importance of realizing early in life that real learning comes from trying, failing and then trying again. She speaks about being the “smart nerd” in a school that concentrated on sports, and being defined by her mathematical acumen… and the shock of getting to college and discovering that she was defined as being a black woman first and mathematician second, and feeling the pressure and the struggle to justify her enrollment.

She discusses her belief in the necessity to teach students to persevere, to hang on and learn from their failures and hardships. She says, “They need to understand that sustained growth comes from accepting the vulnerability in not knowing the answers, and stretching learning in middle school and high school better prepares students for the increased pressures of higher education.”

Listen to the full interview here: edcircuit.com.