Ayanna Howard, Ph.D. is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Zyrobotics, a Georgia Tech spin-off company, and the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Endowed Chair in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. 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.
She received her B.S. in Engineering from Brown University, her M.S.E.E. from the University of Southern California, her M.B.A. from the Drucker Graduate School of Management, and her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California. Her robotics and assistive technology research has resulted in over 200 peer-reviewed publications and a number of commercialized products, including the Zumo Learning System, an accessible electronic learning system for STEM education.
To date, her unique accomplishments have been highlighted through a number of awards and articles, including highlights in USA Today, Upscale, and TIME Magazine, as well as being named a MIT Technology Review top young innovator and recognized as one of the 23 most powerful women engineers in the world by Business Insider.
In 2013, she founded Zyrobotics, which is currently licensing technology derived from her research and has released their first suite of therapy and educational products for children with differing needs. From 1993-2005, Dr. Howard was at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.
With groups creating programs to encourage females to consider STEM, what is the biggest barrier to entry that is still prevalent today?
I believe the biggest barrier to entry for some (not all) females wanting to pursue STEM as a career today is the type of culture present when they first step across the boundary.
What or who inspires you?
What largely inspired me to become a Techie was the TV show “The Bionic Woman.” I decided then, in middle school, that I wanted a career focused on building and designing robots that could positively impact people's lives.
What is your proudest moment/accomplishment?
One of my proudest accomplishments is translating my research into a company with a social mission (i.e. one that is focused on ensuring STEM education is accessible to all children) that is still innovative and cutting-edge with respect to technology development.