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Six of the best: Paying tribute to the Aussie women who rock robotics

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To celebrate International Women’s Day 2019 today, Inside Robotics pays tribute to SIX female movers and shakers in Australia’s robotics industry.

These women have left an indelible mark on the industry for their dedication, leadership and passion in the world of robotics.

They are outstanding role models for young women looking to pursue a career in STEM:

Dr Sue Keay

Dr Keay is Cyber Physical Systems Research Director at CSIRO’s Data61.

She leads the Cyber Physical Systems program, which encompasses research areas including robotics and autonomous systems, distributed sensing networks, 3D mapping, AI-enabled computer vision and cybernetics.

With more than 20 years’ experience in the research sector, Dr Keay was named one of the first Superstars of STEM by Science & Technology Australia in 2017.Sue Keay8

She was previously Chief Operating Officer at the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, headquartered at QUT, and led the development of Australia’s first Robotics Roadmap, which highlighted how advances in robotics impact every sector of the Australian economy.

A graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Dr Keay serves on the Board of the CRC for Optimising Resource Extraction and the expert advisory panel of Queensland.AI.

A university medallist and Jaeger scholar, Dr Keay has a PhD in Earth Sciences from the Australian National University and was an ARC post-doctoral fellow at the University of Queensland.

She recently completed her MBA with UQ Business School and mentors female-led start-up companies.

Distinguished Professor Mary-Anne Williams

Professor Williams is Director of The Magic Lab in the Centre of Artificial Intelligence. She is currently working with the United Nations on the impact of AI on Human Rights, Sustainable Development, and Peace & Security.

Professor Williams is on the inaugural 2013 Robohub's top 25 Women in Robotics, and listed 16th on the prestigious 365 International Women in STEM in 2017.Professor Mary-Anne Williams

She is a leading authority on AI and is senior leader in the Australian and International research community.

Professor Williams serves on ACM Eugene L. Lawler Award Committee for Humanitarian Contributions within Computer Science and Informatics. She took the first robot soccer team to China and has given public lectures in China including for China Science Week.

She is also a Fellow at the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), the Australian Computer Society (ACS), and in the Centre for Legal Informatics (CodeX) at Stanford University. 

Professor Williams works with the Stanford d.school and previously the UTS Hatchery on entrepreneurship programs. She continues to work closely with student startup founders at UTS and CodeX. In 2017 she co-founded the AI Policy Hub with the Directors of CodeX Stanford University, and is co-authoring a major United Nations Report on the Impact of AI.

Professor Elizabeth Croft

Professor Croft is Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Monash University.

Previously, she was with the University of British Columbia (UBC), where she was Senior Associate Dean, Faculty of Applied Science, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Marshall Bauder Professor in Engineering Economics.Dr Elizabeth Croft

Professor Croft has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toronto and a Master of Applied Science from the University of Waterloo in Canada.

She is recognised internationally as an expert in the field of human robotic interaction. As principal investigator for a world class robotics lab within UBC, she has successfully led large-scale collaborative research projects utilising robots alongside people in manufacturing, and guided multidisciplinary initiatives with General Motors, the DLR (German Aerospace Centre) and other industry partners.

Professor Croft has an exceptional record of advancing women’s representation and participation in engineering. Most recently, as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, she worked with partners in funding agencies, industry, academe, and the education system on comprehensive strategies to improve women’s participation and retention in the STEM disciplines at all level.

Her outstanding contributions to education and research have earned Professor Croft considerable acclaim, including the NSERC Accelerator Award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (2007-10), the Alan Blizzard Award, Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in 2008, the Women of Distinction Award in Education, Training and Development from the Vancouver YWCA in 2013 and WXN’s top 100 most powerful women in Canada 2014.

She is a fellow of the ASME, Engineers Canada and the Canadian Academy of Engineering.

Professor Mari Velonaki

Ms Velonaki is a Professor of Social Robotics at Art & Design, UNSW. She is the founder and director of the Creative Robotics Lab (Art & Design UNSW) and the founder and director of the National Facility for Human Robot Interaction Research (UNSW, USYD, UTS, St Vincent’s Hospital).

Her research is situated in the multi-disciplinary field of Social Robotics. Her approach to Social Robotics’ research has been informed by aesthetics and design principles that stem from the theory and practice of Interactive Media Art.mari_velonakin_in_the_national_facility_for_human_robot_interaction_design_smaller_size_1

Professor Velonaki has made significant contributions in the areas of Social Robotics, Media Art and Human-Machine Interface Design.

She pioneered experimental interfaces that incorporate movement, speech, touch, breath, electrostatic charge, artificial vision and robotics, allowing for the development of haptic and immersive relationships between participants and interactive agents.

She is the recipient of several competitive grants, including ARC Discovery, Linkage, LIEF an ARC Fellowship, an Australia Council of the Arts, Visual Arts Fellowship, Australia-Japan Foundation, Fuji Xerox Innovation, AOARD.

Professor Velonaki’s robots and interactive installations have been exhibited worldwide.

Through her transdisciplinary artistic practice and research roles at UNSW and the University of Sydney, Velonaki has established valuable working partnerships with a number of internationally leading robotics, cognitive science and engineering scientists and institutions.

In 2014, she was voted by Robohub – a large robotics community of researchers, educators and business- as one of the world’s 25 women in robotics you need to know about.

Belinda Ward

Ms Ward is Project Manager, Humanoid Robotics, Project Leader and Social Robotics Demonstrator at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

She joined QUT in 2017 to lead a project in social robotics, using Softbank’s Pepper robot platform.

The aim is to understand the role of social robots in influencing human behaviour, and how enhanced robotic vision capabilities can help them interact with humans.Belinda Ward and Pepper

In her previous role at CSIRO’s Autonomous Systems Laboratory, Ms Ward led projects to install a multi-user telepresence robot in the National Museum of Australia, and to provide science education using immersive 3D environments and augmented reality.

Before that she worked in research strategy at Telstra’s Chief Technology Office and in technology innovation at Telstra Research Laboratories.

Ms Ward has undergraduate degrees in Mathematical Science and in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from The University of Adelaide, a Masters Degree in Cognitive Science, and a Masters of Commercial Law from The University of Melbourne.

Nicci Rossouw

Ms Rossouw is CEO at Exaptec, a company specialising in telepresence robots.

She is a robotics solution innovator and disrupter, with expertise in robotics automation solution design and delivery using Robotics as a Service as a business model. 

She is a thought leader in the application of robotics technology and how we as humans interact with robots in a social workplace context.

Ms Rossouw strongly believes robotic automation will deliver a profound positive difference to people's lives.

She is passionate about using technology for wellness – whether it's a child that can't attend school because of leukaemia or a father taking paternal leave wants to dial into a meeting.Nicci3

With ground-breaking telepresence technology she shows how disabled people and those in remote areas can be introduced into the work force.

She is an industry partner for Monash Tech School and Yarra Ranges Tech School and was Australian Robotics Industry partner at Beijing Commission of Economy and Information Technology.

She is also a sponsor of the STEM education program for Australian regional schools and a board member (startups) Eastern Innovation Business Centre.

In recent years Ms Rossouw has assisted many tech startups on their business journey.

Shining the spotlight on the women of Australian robotics

Today, we’ve shone the spotlight on six women who are making a difference in Australian robotics.

But there are many inspirational women now playing a key role in robotics, engineering and science across Australia.

Those are the women influencing change around them every day.

They are the women breaking ground in traditionally male-dominated industries – following their passion.

To all the amazing and inspirational women of robotics we wish you a happy International Women’s Day.

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