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Ayanna Howard

Click here for Ayanna's interview!

¨  Advice in pursuing robotics
¨
  What does a person in "Robotics and Automated Systems" do?
¨
  Do kids talk back to you? If so, how do you respond?
¨  How old were you when you became an engineer?
¨  Do you play any sports?
¨  What is your favorite color?
¨  What steps are there to get a job like yours?
¨  Who is in charge of Robotic Engineering?
¨  Is your work area like a work station, private office, workroom or a cubicle?
¨  How do you see your future in Robotic Engineering?
¨  How do all of the people in your department work together?

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QUESTION:
Ayanna, I found your article inspiring.  I would love to become a robotics engineer, it's a dream I have had since I was young also.  Just as you, I was inspired and motivated by T.V. shows, especially the Bionic Woman, and I had the Radio Shack kit (as a matter of fact I still have one).  I am so fascinated by robotics, I have a work bench at home and I try and tackle a lot of different areas.  I am just now starting to look into STAMP and other microprocessors.  Anyway, I really don't know where to go or what to study at a college.  So, do you have any starter advice on where to go?  Any advice would be great.  Thanks.

ANSWER from Ayanna Howard on 8 August 2003:
Any field in engineering (mechanical, electrical, computer, etc.) is a good field to study in college.  It provides a good background on the theoretical skills necessary to understand the underlying workings of robotics.  Robotics is a hybrid area - you get experience in designing, building, programming, testing - if there's a word for it - robotics has it.

You're off to a very good start.  Experiencing on your own with the hands-on activities is great.  It's the nut-and-bolts that helps you solve the problems, along with the theory.  The STAMP kit is actually used in a lot of robotic competitions (FIRST, for example).  You should learn a lot.Keep up the fire!!

DISCLAIMER: JPL now requires notice in all electronic communication that all personal and professional opinions presented herein are my own and do not, in any way, represent the opinion or policy of JPL.

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QUESTION:
What does a person in the field of "Robotics & Automated Engineering Systems" do?  Are they separate fields or do they work hand in hand?

ANSWER from Ayanna Howard on 27 May 2003:
A person in Robotics is typically either a mechanical, electrical, or computer engineer.  There are different aspects invovled in this - some design the body (i.e. mechanical parts), others program the intelligence, and others build the brain (electrical).  All of the different disciplines need to work together in order to build a full working robotic system.  There is one school that has a "Robotics" major - and that is at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).  They actually combine all the fields into one, but typically it involves separate fields.

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QUESTION:
Do kids talk back to you?  If so, how do you respond?

ANSWER from Ayanna Howard on 15 October 2002:
I haven't had kids talk back negative to me.  Most kids who don't care, just don't come to listen in the first place.

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QUESTION:
How old were you when you became an engineer?

ANSWER from Ayanna Howard on 15 October 2002:
I was 21 - right after getting my B.S. in engineering.

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QUESTION:
Do you play any sports?

ANSWER from Ayanna Howard on 15 October 2002:
I like to weight-train, but don't play any competitive sports.

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QUESTION:
What is your favorite color?

ANSWER from Ayanna Howard on 15 October 2002:
I really don't have a favorite color, but if I had to choose, I would probably say burgundy.

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QUESTION:
What steps are there to get to a job like yours?

ANSWER from Ayanna Howard on 15 October 2002:
First, hone your skills in math and science.  These elementary skills are necessary to excel as an engineering major.  Second, experiment and build things.  Get involved in projects that allow you to use your hands and creativity to design and create.

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QUESTION:
Who is in charge of Robotic Engineering?

ANSWER from Ayanna Howard on 15 October 2002:
At NASA-JPL, people work on different robotic projects.  There is no one person who is in charge of all the projects.

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QUESTION:
Is your work area like a work station, private office, workroom or a cubicle?

ANSWER from Ayanna Howard on 15 October 2002:
I actually have two work areas.  When I'm programming the robot intelligence, I work in my office.  The quiet atmosphere helps me relax and concentrate better.  When I'm actually working on the robot, and doing testing of the code, I work in the lab.  This is a large area with enough space for the robot to move around without running into desks and people.

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QUESTION:
How do you see your future in Robotic Engineering?

ANSWER from Ayanna Howard on 15 October 2002:
Robotic engineering is expanding as a career option.  The technology has reached the level that robots that perform useful tasks - even in the home - can actually be built.  I see my future in Robotic Engineering growing to the point that the robotic work I do for robotic exploration will be transplanted to earth-based applications to help people right here on our planet.

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QUESTION:
How do all of the people in your department work together?  What types of jobs do they do?

ANSWER from Ayanna Howard on 15 October 2002:
Most tasks in the department are joint efforts.  We require various different skills from the entire team.  For example, a computer scientist will program the robot, a mechanical engineer will design the robot components, and an electrical engineer will figure out how to get the electronic brain to work.

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Last Updated:
11 October 2003
 

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