Dr. Ayanna Howard with a SmartNav rover
Dr. Ayanna Howard stands next to a SmartNav rover she built.
Dr. Ayanna Howard, an electrical engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has been selected to participate in the National Academy of Engineering's annual engineering symposium, to be held Sept. 9 to 11 in Irvine, Calif.

The three-day event will bring together engineers ages 30 to 45 who are performing cutting-edge engineering research and technical work in a variety of areas. Dr. Howard and the 85 other participants were nominated by fellow engineers or organizations.

"It's an honor to have my research acknowledged as part of the technological future," she said. "I just do what I love, and somehow the opportunities continue to evolve."

The symposium will be held at the National Academies' Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine. Several employees from JPL, the California Institute of Technology and other NASA field centers will speak at the event.

Howard sees a future where humans and machines work together to explore new environments. Her expertise is in robotics, neural networks and machine vision. She joined JPL in 1991, where she has led research efforts on various projects. Currently, she is working on a software system that mimics the decisions humans make and allows robotic spacecraft to safely navigate along the martian surface.

Howard is actively involved in community service activities, talking with students around the world about the wonders of robotics, computers and technology. She also started the Pasadena Delta Academy, a mentoring program for at-risk girls that encourages careers in math and science.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.