Ada Lovelace Day: celebrating women in robotics

Today is Ada Lovelace Day -- in celebration of the world's first programmer, Ada Lovelace -- a day to recognize and celebrate women in science and technology. As a female robotics engineer, I've been pleasantly surprised to find so many female role models and heroes in the robotics world, and I really want to take this opportunity to highlight just a few of these awesome women that I personally look up to.

Helen Greiner -- Greiner is the well-known co-founder of iRobot Corporation and, most recently, founder of a stealth startup called The Droid Works. She's been recognized by a number of organizations for her contributions to robotics and business, and was also awarded the Women of Vision award for Innovation by the Anita Borg Institute last year. She often takes an active role in supporting engineering and technology education, volunteering frequently for FIRST Robotics Competition events and sitting on the board of the Boston Museum of Science.

Deborah Theobald -- as the CEO of Vecna Technologies, she has helped the robotics group in their development of the BEAR robot. The BEAR is designed to help take people off a battlefield or out of other dangerous situations, and has applications in medical facilities such as hospitals. Theobald also gave a great inspirational speech during the opening ceremonies of the Boston FIRST Robotics Regional on 5 March, challenging more than 1000 students in attendance to dare to take risks and solve hard problems in robotics and other areas of engineering.

Cynthia Breazeal -- Dr. Breazeal, designer of Kismet, now leads the Personal Robotics group at the MIT Media Lab, the nursery for robots like Leonardo and Autom. Her work is at the foundation of research on emotional expression in robots and how they interact with humans in a variety of situations, and the work she has supported in her lab has even started spinning out into new companies.

Maja Mataric -- at USC, Dr. Mataric is the director of the Robotics Research Lab and the Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems. She also authored The Robotics Primer, an intro-to-robotics textbook that is written in a very accessible, informal writing style. It's designed to teach beginners (most likely around high school age) about everything from the basics of DC motors to robot navigation, making it possible for even more students to get involved with robotics on a deeper level.

Anette "Peko" Hosoi -- I originally heard about Dr. Hosoi's work on a robot snail; later, a coworker of mine went to do research for her on a robotic razor clam. She works in the really interesting field of bio-inspired robotics, investigating what nature can teach us about locomotion mechanisms for robots.

And, as I wrote last year, the IEEE Women in Engineering magazine did a really phenomenal issue focusing on women in robotics. The online version is still available here.

Those of us in the robotics industry are incredibly lucky to have these women and many others like them to look up to -- it's a real inspiration!

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