Women in Robotics

The idea behind the initiative was born out of efforts to not only acknowledge our female collaborators and share their stories, but also highlight and promote the work that has been done by these outstanding female roboticists; to share their dedication and passion and disseminate their research so they can create a greater global impact and influence and inspire young minds.

To participate in the Women in Robotics initiative, participants were asked to submit a new paper presenting their research. The main prerequisite being, that one of the authors of the paper is female.

Based on the reviewers' comments and the overall quality of the submissions, our Ambassadors have selected the following as winning papers:

The winning authors received waivers for their submissions and a printed collection of all winning selections.

Note: All winning contributions were originally published in the International Journal of Advanced Robotics Systems in 2015.

As a special feature to the Women in Robotics initiative, we asked Prof. Danica Kragic about how to encourage more women to get involved in robotics. Watch was she has to say in the following video:

The Ambassadors and Their Stories

Amy Loutfi Photo credits: University of Örebro
Photographer: Ulla-Carin Ekblom

Dr. Amy Loutfi, University of Örebro, Sweden

"Over the years working as a researcher and as an engineer, I have come to understand that seldom is there only one absolute solution to any given problem. Often we work with a number of constraints in our research, whether they be functional, economical or even aesthetic and ethical. To comply with these different constraints requires us to think creatively, finding new ways and avenues to explore in order to provide multifaceted solutions for the benefit of potential users. For me, it has always been obvious that in order for our field to be strong, we need diversity. We need different people, as we need different solutions. Diversity in culture, background and gender inject new perspectives into the field and generate new ideas. So encouraging a balance between women and men in robotics and intelligent systems seems like an obvious necessity for the strengthening and betterment of the field.

During my career and lifetime, there have been few key events which have made me reflect over the role of women in engineering. One of the very first was the tragic circumstances in Montreal in 1989 where one lone gunman had shot and killed 14 young women engineering students. He had entered the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal and systematically targeted the women students. I was only 11 when the shootings occurred but still remember feeling a sense of shock and confusion. I simply could not understand how women studying engineering could in any way be provocative.

Still, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons that led to me choosing a career in science and engineering. Admittedly, much of my everyday life is not spent noticing nor identifying myself as a minority in my field. That is why initiatives like this are important as they highlight the balance between the genders and give us researchers and engineers an opportunity to do what we do best – to reflect."

Amy Loutfi Photo Credits: California State University Fullerton
Photographer: Matt Gush

Dr. Nina Robson, California State University Fullerton, USA

People say that true love makes miracles. I personally think that the world of science is not far away from the miracles of love. The way that a believer can preach or a person who loves can praise, the same way science can open people's eyes, minds and even hearts.

The essence of the person that I am today, I owe to my dad. When I was a small girl, before bedtime my dad used to tell me stories. The stories were not about monsters and fairies, but about robots. Robots that help people at home, robots that heal people in hospitals, robots that save people from dangers, robots that work together and socialize with people. My dad's stories changed my perception of the world and science forever and robotics became my ultimate dream.

To this day I like sharing with people that I work with my brain as much as with my heart. As a person who truly enjoys robotics I love sharing my stories and research with others. My favorite audience, besides my two little girls who are the ultimate source of great unique ideas, is other kids! I believe that children are our future scientists and it is our responsibility to open their eyes, minds and hearts to the wonders of science and technology at an early age.

Another favorite audience of mine is the women that work in science and engineering. I have a number of female role models around and the closest to me is my mom. She taught me how to be strong, how to work hard, how to overcome difficulties and most importantly she is still reminding me not to pay attention to small problems and to keep believing in myself. Every time I talk with female students and colleagues I hope that I transfer that same encouragement and knowledge to them.

Working in the areas of mechanical design and robotics to that day I vividly remember my dad's stories. Day by day I witness how they become a reality and I see the robot's ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future. The best feeling of all is that I am a part of these stories now and I have a real role in that great dream of mine!

Bernardine Dias Photo Credits: Carnegie Mellon University

M. Bernardine Dias, Carnegie Mellon University, USA

Robots today perform complex tasks including surgery, exploration, agriculture, and manufacturing. Robotics technology has matured to the point where sensors can detect obstacles in a variety of environments and weather conditions, perception algorithms can identify objects and people of interest in numerous situations, planning algorithms can generate optimal plans in dynamic conditions, and actuators can reproduce a variety of biologically inspired manipulations. Robots are now also capable of cooperating with other robots, and interacting with humans to provide information, entertain, and assist humans in different ways. All of this is reality today because some creative minds imagined these possibilities in the past, and many skilled researchers joined forces to convert these possibilities into reality. This process of inventing the future necessarily demands a diversity of skills, talents, and perspectives.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working in the field of Robotics is this necessity of cross-disciplinary work. For example, Mathematics and Physics inform robot control, Engineering and Design shape robot mechanisms, and Psychology and Art greatly influence human-robot interaction. Robots themselves are highly diverse mechanisms, ranging from cute toy robots to intimidating military robots; from large robots that can transport many humans, to small robots that can be swallowed by a human; from fragile indoor stationary robots to rugged outdoor mobile robots and many more. The impact and creativity of these robots are ultimately limited primarily by the imagination and creativity of their inventors. Therefore, the greater the diversity in the inventors of these robotic solutions, the greater the likelihood that we will jointly create a better future for all. Representing over half the global population, women must therefore necessarily play a significant role in Robotics and in inventing our future.

I was drawn to the field of Robotics because it provided a great opportunity to invent a future where technology can assist humankind in numerous ways. Imagining a better future for all, and making that future a reality is definitely an incredibly exciting career path. When that career path also involves cool technology and robots, I really cannot imagine a better path for me. I have spent the majority of my robotics career developing technology solutions for communities that haven’t traditionally benefited from technology innovations; namely people in the developing world, and people with disabilities. It has been an honor to serve as a role model, and to mentor many future roboticists, and to inspire many young children around the world to pursue their ambitions in science and engineering. However my proudest professional accomplishment has been playing a small role in inventing a future where some communities who are disempowered today, have a greater chance of thriving in the future due in part to my inventions. As a woman who grew up in the developing world, I cannot imagine a higher metric for professional success.