Opening Keynote | Dr. Ayanna Howard

Ayanna Howard

Ayanna Howard, Ph.D. is the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Chair in Bioengineering
in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of
Technology and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Zyrobotics, a Georgia Tech
VentureLab startup company. She received her B.S. in Engineering from Brown
University, her M.S.E.E. from the University of Southern California, and her Ph.D. in
Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California. Her area of
research is centered around the concept of humanized intelligence, the process of
embedding human cognitive capability into the control path of autonomous
systems. This work, which addresses issues of autonomous control as well as
aspects of interaction with humans and the surrounding environment, has resulted
in over 200 peer-reviewed publications in a number of projects – from scientific
rover navigation in glacier environments to assistive robots for the home.

To date, Dr. Howard’s 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 also 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. She has also served a term as the Associate Director of Research for
the Georgia Tech Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines and a term as Chair
of the multidisciplinary Robotics Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech.

President’s Keynote | Dr. Robert Ballard



Robert Ballard is Founder and President of the Ocean Exploration Trust; Director
of the Center for Ocean Exploration and Professor of Oceanography at the
University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography. He is an
Explorer-In-Residence at the National Geographic Society, Commissioner for the U.S.
Commission on Ocean Policy, and a Senior Scientist Emeritus at the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution. He served in the U.S. Navy for more than 30 years and
continues to work with the Office of Naval Research. A pioneer in the development
of deep-sea submersibles and remotely operated vehicle systems, he has taken
part in more than 140 deep-sea expeditions.

In 1985, he discovered the RMS Titanic, and has succeeded in tracking down
numerous other significant shipwrecks, including the German battleship Bismarck,
the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, the U.S. aircraft carrier Yorktown, and John F.
Kennedy’s boat, PT-109. He has also discovered hydrothermal vents and “black
smokers” in the Galapagos Rift and East Pacific Rise in 1977 and 1979. The author
of numerous books, scientific papers, and articles, he has been featured in several
National Geographic television programs, including “Secrets of the Titanic” and a
more recent five-part mini-series, “Alien Deep with Bob Ballard.” He was a special
advisor to Steve Spielberg on the futuristic television show seaQuest DSV.  His
honors include 21 Honorary Doctorates, National Geographic’s highest award, the
Hubbard Medal, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Medal. He was
elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014.

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Closing Keynote | Erin Gruwell

Erin Gruwell

Erin Gruwell is an Educator and Founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation
Erin Gruwell has earned an award-winning reputation for her steadfast commitment
to the future of education. Her impact as a change agent attracted Hollywood’s
attention, and in 2007, Paramount Pictures released Freedom Writers, starring two-
time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as Erin. The film is based on The Freedom Writers
Diary, the New York Times bestseller that chronicled Erin’s extraordinary journey
with her 150 high school students who dubbed themselves the “Freedom Writers” in
homage to Civil Rights activists the Freedom Riders. By fostering an educational
philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, she transformed her students’ lives.
She encouraged them to re-think rigid beliefs about themselves and others,
reconsider their own daily decisions, and ultimately, re-chart their future. With
Erin’s support, they chose to forego teenage pregnancy, drugs, and violence in
order to become aspiring college students, published writers, and citizens for

Erin and her students have appeared on numerous television shows, including
Oprah, Prime Time Live with Connie Chung, Barbara Walters’ The View, and Good
Morning America, to name a few. Their story has earned them dozens of awards,
including the Spirit of Anne Frank Award. Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writer
Teachers also collaborated with Scholastic to create On the Record, an innovative
reading and writing program. On the Record uses the Freedom Writer
Methodologies to improve students' reading and writing skills, as well as their lives.
She continues to fight for equality in education and inspires teachers and students
all over the world with her work.