Ayanna Howard's Dream Job
Ayanna has designed robots that can think for themselves.
What she did at NASA
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, she developed the next generation of Mars rover. Through artificial intelligence, this robot will be independent-minded enough to explore the Martian terrain on its own, without having its every move programmed by a human. On a future mission to Mars, Ayanna’s robot will be able to collect and analyze data and samples that may help determine whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.
Where she works now
Ayanna is teaching and researching at Georgia Tech, working to discover new ways that robots can help both in space exploration and in assisting people on Earth.
B.S. in electrical engineering, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island; M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California.
How she became interested in engineering
Inspired by the TV show “The Bionic Woman,” in which a severely injured woman attains extraordinary powers through artificial (bionic) limbs, Ayanna decided at age 11 that she wanted to create artificial limbs for people. She planned to go to medical school, but discovered she hated biology—especially dissecting frogs. Then she heard about robotics and realized that, if she became an engineer, she could do exactly what she wanted to do.
Ayanna developed a math and science mentoring program for junior high school girls. She’s also volunteered as a computer tutor at a shelter for battered women.
She likes traveling and going to see live jazz bands. Ayanna also loves watching science fiction movies and cartoons with her son.
“Don't be afraid to learn the basics, and definitely keep your imagination alive. After all, engineering is about bringing new things to life!”
Watch her video
See a great video of Ayanna and her Mars robot on PBS’s Dragonfly TV.