Ayanna Howard Wins ABIE Richard Newton Educator Award

The Anita Borg Institute (ABI) has announced that Ayanna Howard will receive the prestigious A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award. Howard, the Motorola Foundation Professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), will be presented with this honor at the 2014 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, to be held October 8-10 in Phoenix, Arizona.

The A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award recognizes the development of innovative teaching practices and approaches that attract girls and women to computing, engineering, and math. A robotics researcher, teacher, and mentor, Howard has engaged hundreds of female and minority students in computing, engineering, and science through numerous K-12 outreach programs and summer camps.

Before coming to Georgia Tech, Howard worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at Caltech from 1993-2005, where she led research efforts on various robotic projects that led to her being named to the MIT Technology Review TR100 as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35. While at JPL, she founded and ran the Pasadena Delta Academy, a mentoring program for at-risk teen girls focused on STEM education, and the JPL Undergraduate Mentoring Program for Women, which provided mentoring support to undergraduate women engineering students.

A faculty member at Georgia Tech since 2005, Howard directs the Human-Automation Systems (HumAnS) Lab, where she blends control theory, human-robot interaction methods, and learning to the area of field and service robotics. She is the faculty lead of the I-Natural Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) Team, a multi-year multidisciplinary research team of undergraduates tasked to design, build, and test interfaces that enable humans to naturally interact with robots in performing activities of daily living. She has also teamed with faculty at the Atlanta Girls School to introduce a similar experience for a group of its 11th and 12th grade students.

In 2008, Howard received worldwide attention for her SnoMote robots, designed to study the impact of global warming on the Antarctic iceshelfs. She started a live blog to document the last glacier field trails in 2010 as part of a virtual scientist live videoconference with three minority-serving Boston high schools.

Over the last five years in Atlanta, Howard has hosted middle and high school robotics camps that have involved over 350 minority and female students and students with disabilities. At these camps, students were asked to solve challenges ranging from designing their own NASA lunar colony and robot assistants to programming AIBO robotic dogs to programming a robot avatar using a gaming scenario. She has also developed three educational software packages that allow K-12 teachers to adopt her hands-on learning initiatives.

Howard will join five other women receiving ABIE awards at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. In addition to Howard’s education award, these women will be honored for their achievements in technical leadership, social impact, international change agent, and emerging faculty member leadership.

The Anita Borg Institute (ABI), a non-profit organization focused on advancing women in computing, hosts the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. This event is now the world’s largest gathering of women technologists, featuring keynotes by prominent women in technology, career workshops, and technical tracks from leading researchers.

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Jackie Nemeth

School of Electrical and Computer Engineering