A group of 143 high school girls were honored at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) for excelling in science and technology.
The girls were chosen by their high schools to attend the Lillian Gilbreth Women in Technology Leadership Awards ceremony held last week at NJIT.
(Editor’s Note: Here is a list of the girls who were honored at the awards ceremony, along with their high schools).
Cynthia Breazeal, one of the nation’s leading roboticists, spoke during the awards ceremony. The all-girl FIRST Robotics Team from Montclair High School attended the ceremony, too. The lecture was part of a month-long series of events celebrating Women’s History Month at NJIT.
Robots have been to the moon, to Mars and even, in form of vacuum cleaners, to shopping malls. But where they haven't been, and where they might be most useful, is in our homes, said Breazeal.
“For robots, the final frontier isn’t space; it’s your living room,” said Breazeal, associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and director of MIT's Robotics Life Group. “I dream of a future where robots will be partners for people -- being companions for us and enriching our lives.”
Breazeal sees a new range of applications for robots: they can comfort the sick and the elderly, be companions to children and adults, and offer a variety of entertainment in the home. Traditionally, she says, robots were designed to operate as remotely as possible from people, often performing tasks in dangerous places, such as space. But she designs robots to closely interact with people.
When she was young, Breazeal wanted to be a doctor or an astronaut. But after she saw the movie Star Wars she was infatuated with humanoid robots. Later, in graduate school at MIT, she concentrated in robotics. Now robots are part of her daily life at the MIT Media Lab. She was a robotics consultant for the film A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
Breazeal encouraged the girls at the ceremony to pursue their interests in science and technology fields. About 85 percent of the jobs in those fields are now taken by men, she said, and more women are needed. Both of her parents worked in scientific fields, she said, which gave her good role models. She also played competitive tennis in high school, which gave her a chance to compete against men, she said.
“Your gender is part of who you are but you are more than that, said Breazeal. “You are the sum of all your experiences.”