Women Engineers, Entrepreneurs and Writers to Explore the Impact of Robots on Work and Life

Written by: Tracey Regan,

The Murray Center for Women in Technology will hold a one-day conference, “Women Designing the Future: Thinking About Things that Think-- Robots, Smart Devices, Pervasive Computing,” on Friday, March 24, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the university’s Campus Center Ballrooms A and B.

The event will feature interactive sessions with experts on disruptive innovations in robotics and smart devices that will fundamentally transform human lives, both at work and in the home. Conference speakers from a variety of disciplines will explore the opportunities and challenges posed by this near-future world—including drone technology, robot helpers for the aged, robotic exoskeletons for people with disabilities and robot toys for STEM education.

“In 1994, when the Murray Center first opened its doors, robots were largely creatures of the factory floor—and of science fiction,” said Nancy Steffen-Fluhr, Ph.D., the center's director. “Today, they’re poised on the threshold of our homes, offering to become our assistants, our collaborators and, quite possibly, our friends.”

“Our conference will explore the potential impact of this robotics revolution on the quality of human life--the digital divide, concerns about privacy, security, and emotional disconnection; and, not least, the specter of technology-driven unemployment.”

Following a continental breakfast and opening remarks by NJIT President Joel S. Bloom and Provost Fadi Deek, the lead-off speaker, robotics pioneer Wendy Roberts, will showcase the work she is doing as CEO of Five Elements Robotics to develop personal service robots for the aged and disabled, including the award-winning companion robot Budgee™--who will make a personal appearance at the conference.

Later in the program, conference participants will hear from a group of young women researchers in NJIT’s Biomedical Engineering program who are developing robotic exoskeletons for medical rehabilitation-- and from Julia Kirby, co-author of Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines (HarperCollins, 2016). Industry representatives who work with drones will explore the potentially positive and negative aspects of the technology.

The day’s final sessions will focus on how robotics projects and digital game design can be used to attract girls to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors.  Audience members will have an opportunity to work hands-on with LEGO Mindstorms robots and visit the conference game arcade. The conference includes a continental breakfast and a buffet luncheon.

“Women Designing the Future: Thinking About Things that Think” is co-sponsored by the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), NJIT’s CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service grant, the Albert Dorman Honors College, the Technology & Society Forum and IEEE Women in Engineering (Princeton chapter).

Registered conference attendees will be able to park in the NJIT parking deck located on 154 Summit Street. For directions to NJIT, visit: https://www.njit.edu/about/maps-directions. To register, visit: https://womendesigningthefuture17.eventbrite.com

Since 1995, the Murray Center for Women in Technology at NJIT has worked to ensure the sustainable advancement of NJIT women by facilitating individual growth, community interaction and institutional transformation. The Center provides an array of career resources for women students, faculty and staff, including networking programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. For more information on the Murray Center, visit: http://womenscenter.njit.edu/