When educator, researcher, and innovator Dr. Ayanna Howard was a kid, she decided that she wanted to invent robots. When she grew up, she made that dream come true with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and a job at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There she would lead a team of engineers and scientists to develop a planetary rover that could “safely and independently traverse long distances on challenging terrains” like those found on Mars. Her expertise in artificial intelligence was an important part of the work.

In this video, Howard describes an experience early on in her career at JPL and how courage is a necessary part of the invention process. She says, “It takes insane courage to innovate. Courage to open yourself up for criticism. To be in a place where no one has the same diverse experience as you – and be confident that your difference is what makes your ability to innovate unique.”

Read more about Howard at NASA.gov and at NPR: Being Different Helped A NASA Roboticist Achieve Her Dream.

Next: Spark of Science – France A. Córdova, Lisa Winter, Robot Builder, Marie Tharp: Uncovering the Secrets of the Ocean Floor, and how a failed invention lead to a potentially life-saving new idea.

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