The Institute - December 2019 - 12

founders have to be good communicators, he says.
"The stereotype for engineers is that
they don't like to work with people
and only talk through computers," Xu
says. "This is indeed common. But
from my experience, all engineers
can learn to be good communicators
if they set their mind to taking continuous-learning courses and practicing
their communication skills.
"Another critical skill that entrepreneurs need is leadership, which isn't
taught in engineering school."
IEEE offers several online career
development courses, including An
Introduction to Leadership: A Primer
for the Practitioner, Leadership
Development for Technical Profess i o n a l s ,   C o m mu n i c at i o n a n d
Presentation Skills for Technical
Professionals, and Stuff You Don't
L earn in Engineering School:
Communicating Effectively.

Gender equality is an important issue
for Xu.
"Women show more empathy and
tend to develop relationships-which
are two key attributes of effective entrepreneurs," he says.
Xu is a member of the Electrical
Engineering and Computer Sciences
Department industrial advisory
board at UC Berkeley and a member of
the Biomedical Engineering Department
advisory board at Johns Hopkins
University, in Baltimore.
These university engineering department boards are working on ways to
recruit more women and attract more
girls from grade school and high school
to engineering, he says.
"Companies need to hire more
women and promote diversity," he
says. "We are seeing some women leaders rise up through the ranks, but in
general there is still a minority.
"A team with more diversity often
achieves higher performance and better
results." -K.P.
This article originally appeared online
as "Four Actions Engineers Can Take
to Ensure Their Startup Succeeds."


DEC 2019



member profile

AUTISM Georgia Tech roboticist
explains her inspiration


hildren with autism
spectrum disorder
can have a difficult
time expressing
their emotions and
can be highly sensitive to sound,
sight, and touch. That sometimes
restricts their participation in
everyday activities, leaving them
socially isolated. Occupational therapists can help them cope better,
but the time they're able to spend
is limited and the sessions tend to
be expensive.
Roboticist Ayanna Howard, an
IEEE senior member, has been using
interactive androids to guide children with autism on ways to socially
and emotionally engage with
others-as a supplement to therapy. Howard is chair of the School of
Interactive Computing and director
of the Human-Automation Systems
Lab at Georgia Tech.
She helped found Zyrobotics, a Georgia
Tech VentureLab startup that is working on AI and robotics technologies to
engage children with special needs. Last
year Forbes named Howard, Zyrobotics'
chief technology officer, one of the Top
50 U.S. Women in Tech.
In a recent study, Howard and other
researchers explored how robots might
help children navigate sensory experiences.
The experiment involved 18 participants
between the ages of 4 and 12; five had
autism, and the rest were meeting typical
developmental milestones. Two humanoid robots were programmed to express
boredom, excitement, nervousness, and
17 other emotional states. As children

explored stations set up for hearing, seeing,
smelling, tasting, and touching, the robots
modeled what the socially acceptable
responses should be.
"If a child's expression is one of happiness
or joy, the robot will have a corresponding response of encouragement," Howard
says. "If there are aspects of frustration or
sadness, the robot will provide input to try
again." The study suggested that many children with autism exhibit stronger levels
of engagement when the robots interact
with them at such sensory stations.
It is one of many robotics projects
Howard has tackled. She has designed
robots for researching glaciers, and she is
working on assistive robots for the home,
as well as an exoskeleton that can help
children who have motor disabilities.

The Institute - December 2019

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