Founding members of Black in Robotics Monroe Kennedy III and Ayanna Howard with a robot.
Ayanna Howard, chair of the School of Interactive Computing with the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, and Monroe Kennedy III, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, are founding members of Black in Robotics (BiR), and members of the organization's leadership team. On Nov. 14, BiR and Amazon Robotics will announce they're collaborating to create a regional BiR chapter in Boston. It is the first of what BiR hopes will be many chapters established across the US.
Credit: Glynnis Condon, Georgia Tech, Stanford

Amazon Robotics is primary sponsor of new Black in Robotics Boston chapter

Recently formed organization advocates for more diversity, inclusion, and equity within robotics field.

At a virtual student event connected to the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Amazon Robotics and the recently established Black in Robotics (BiR) organization will announce tomorrow they’re collaborating to create BiR’s first regional chapter, the first of what BiR hopes will be many chapters established across the US.  

Amazon Robotics’ sponsorship includes financial support for events and other activities in the Boston area, as well as providing meeting and event space in Amazon's offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Boston chapter will help create opportunities for up-and-coming roboticists, and help enrich the company’s talent pipeline, says Tye Brady, Amazon Robotics’ chief technology officer. Amazon Robotics’ headquarters is located in North Reading, Massachusetts, just north of Boston.  The Boston chapter will help Black engineering and science students at Boston-area colleges and universities such as MIT, Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern, the University of Massachusetts, Tufts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Olin College, and Brown University, network and obtain mentoring and internship  opportunities from area academic and industry professionals.

“Black in Robotics is really about building community and advocating for diversity, and encouraging accountability,” said Ayanna Howard, chair of the School of Interactive Computing within the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, one of BiR’s founders, and a member of its leadership team. “We feel it makes sense to start in Boston because of the large robotics community that exists there, and because there are a large number of students there attending regional universities. It’s an ideal location to start because we can reach out to the students and reach engineers there, and establish a presence, and a blueprint for how we can build communities elsewhere.”

“If you’re an underrepresented minority student at one of the area colleges and universities, you might be only one of two or three people who look like you in your classes, and if you’re a professional working in industry, you might also be only one of two or three roboticists who look like you in your organization,” Howard added. “So this chapter is about building community, and helping students and professionals develop a network, and avoid the isolation they might otherwise feel.”

“We are really driven by the fact that we need to be the change we want to see,” added Monroe Kennedy III, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University who is also a founding member of BiR, and a member of its leadership team. “African Americans especially, but minorities in general, are underrepresented in STEM, and in robotics. As members of the robotics community, we recognize how valuable being a member of the community is to every aspect of our lives. So our objective is to make that opportunity available to more underrepresented minorities.”

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“The current and pervasive lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the technology ecosystem presents a significant national challenge,” says a report on women and girls of color in computing from the Kapor Center, and other contributors.

Brady says Amazon Robotics is excited to support BiR’s mission of bringing together researchers, industry professionals, and students in robotics to support one another, and help navigate academic, industry, and entrepreneurial paths. When Howard talked with Brady recently about how to address systemic inequities in robotics and the role Amazon Robotics could play in supporting the Boston BiR chapter, he didn’t hesitate.

“Ayanna is an amazing individual with deep technical chops.  Whenever she gets behind something, I pay attention,” Brady said. “I’m excited to support her and the organization’s mission.”

Brady believes it’s important to define the future of robotics with a mindset of diversity and inclusion.

Tye Brady
Tye Brady, Amazon Robotics' chief technology officer, says the Boston chapter of Black in Robotics will help create opportunities for up-and-coming roboticists, and help enrich the company's talent pipeline.

“Why do I say that?  Three reasons,” Brady said. “First, we become more creative with diverse viewpoints and perspectives, which ultimately leads to better robotics. Second, diversity is the answer to adversity. By that I mean, teams become stronger when they’re diverse; they bring more opportunities, more experience, and more viewpoints to the challenge of tackling hard problems. And third, we can source talent from a much larger pool of talent. We’re constantly seeking the best and the brightest to help us reimagine the future, and that means including others than yourself. We really need to grow the talent pipeline in computer engineering generally, and robotics more specifically, and this is a great opportunity to do that.”

The importance of mentoring

Kennedy says the new BiR Boston chapter represents the deep commitment industry and academia have to increasing the number of underrepresented minorities within STEM professions.  He’s excited about the forthcoming opportunities for students, faculty, and industry professionals to learn from each other, and collaborate on projects together.

“This is really a great opportunity for academia and industry to come together, put everything aside, and really come together as roboticists who care about each other, and want to help one another.  This first chapter can really facilitate that vision,” Kennedy said.

The mentorship component of BiR’s vision resonated with Brady.

“I just think about my own experiences when it comes to having mentors, having people help you when you have an interest in something, but no experience,” Brady said. “I’m thankful to those people who extended a helping hand to me. I’m thankful to those companies who said, ‘I can help you; I can give you a chance.’ I’ve lived that, and it’s important to pass that experience on to others. This initiative provides a great opportunity to do that.  Not just for myself, but for our entire Amazon Robotics team.”

Kennedy says he, too, has benefited from many mentors in his career journey, and he’s pulled together different attributes from each to help guide his career and lifestyle choices.

“One thing that was lacking is there wasn’t necessarily one place I could go where these examples came together in a nice, cohesive way,” Kennedy says. “This is something Black in Robotics has to offer. We want to bring these individuals, these examples, together in a cohesive way, so students don’t have to look all over the place to get exposed to these positive examples, to find their heroes.”

Mentorship is a critical component of Howard’s role as a professor at Georgia Tech.

“My group at Tech is very diverse; it’s representative of the world and I hope all of them pursue a career in robotics,” Howard said. “I mentor them, not just academically, but socially as well. I introduce them to people, and I work to push them out front and promote them. And we just need more of that. That’s what resonates for me with this Boston chapter; it’s that ability to network with others that doesn’t happen naturally without this kind of organization. We’re creating the water cooler where people can come together, and networking will be a natural byproduct of that.”

Education and community outreach

Education and community outreach is another component of BiR’s mission.  This, too, speaks to Brady, who’s concerned not only by the lack of underrepresented minorities within the tech industry overall, and the robotics field more specifically, but with declining college enrollments in STEM-related courses.

“We have to get to the K through 12 kids sooner, and engage them in computer science, and science-related topics sooner,” Brady said. “That’s one of the things we hope to enable with this chapter. We want to create robotics ambassadors who can get engaged with K through 12 kids, and share their experiences and their passion for robotics. “Our entire community needs to get involved because we need more college graduates with computer science degrees, engineering degrees, and graduates who are STEM minded.  So that’s another aspect of this initiative that we’re really excited about.”

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Howard agrees, though she emphasizes that the burden shouldn’t solely rest with Black roboticists to help drive change within the field.

“There has been a lot of progress; the needle has moved,” she says. “It just hasn’t moved at the rate is has in other fields like medicine or law. The way we’ve established this organization from the outset is that allies are a pillar. Our mission isn’t just to connect Black roboticists with other Black roboticists. We don’t believe that will move the needle. People like myself, who have been in this field for a while, shouldn’t bear the burden of fixing robotics.  That’s why our approach has been to bring in allies from the beginning; we’ve created an ally steering committee because this isn’t a Black or Brown problem, this is a robotics problem.”

Those of us who have more senior roles in our field have helped knock down some of the walls, but we need to make sure that even though we’ve knocked down some walls, the road for future roboticists is more comfortable to travel on.
Ayanna Howard

“Some of this is also about calling ourselves out,” Howard continues, “to say ‘Look, this is as much our fault as it is society’s fault, and therefore we need to play a role in fixing it. Those of us who have more senior roles in our field have helped knock down some of the walls, but we need to make sure that even though we’ve knocked down some walls, the road for future roboticists is more comfortable to travel on.”

In addition to Howard and Kennedy, other members of BiR’s leadership team include Carlotta Berry, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; Edward  Tunstel, group leader, and associate director of robotics at Raytheon Technologies’ Research Center; Quincy Kissiedu-Brown, cofounder of blackcomputerHER; Maynard Holliday, senior engineer, Rand Corporation; Yves Nazon II, a graduate research assistant at the University of Michigan; and Kwesi Rutledge, a PhD candidate in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan.

Howard says the Boston chapter’s first event is scheduled for January. Individuals interested in becoming a BiR member can visit the organization’s website.

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Advertising at Amazon is a fast-growing business that spans across desktop, mobile and connected devices; encompasses ads on Amazon and a vast network of hundreds of thousands of third party publishers; and extends across US, EU and an increasing number of international geographies. The Ad Optimization group in Bangalore has the charter to build data-science focused products and platforms for Amazon Advertising. One of our key focus areas is Traffic Quality where we endeavor to identify non-human and invalid traffic within programmatic ad sources, and weed them out to ensure a high quality advertising marketplace. We do this by building machine learning and optimization algorithms that operate at scale, and leverage nuanced features about user, context, and creative engagement to determine the validity of traffic. The challenge is to stay one step ahead by investing in deep analytics and developing new algorithms that address emergent attack vectors in a structured and scalable fashion. We are committed to building a long-term traffic quality solution that encompasses all Amazon advertising channels and provides state-of-the-art traffic filtering that preserves advertiser trust and saves them hundreds of millions of dollars of wasted spend.Traffic quality systems process billions of ad-impressions and clicks per day. by leveraging cutting-edge open source technologies like Hadoop, Spark, Redis and Amazon's cloud services like EC2, S3, EMR, DynamoDB and RedShift. We build and deploy complex machine learning and advanced optimization algorithms that operate at scale. We are looking for talented applied scientists who enjoy working on creative algorithms and thrive in a fast-paced, fun environment. An Applied Scientist is responsible for solving complex big-data problems in the online advertising space using data mining, machine learning, statistical analysis and computational economics. An ideal candidate should have strong depth and breadth knowledge in machine learning, data mining and statistics. The candidate should have reasonable programming and design skills to manipulate unstructured and big data and build prototypes that work on massive datasets. The candidate should be able to apply business knowledge to perform broad data analysis as a precursor to modeling and to provide valuable business intelligence.
US, MA, Cambridge
We’re looking for a passionate, talented, and inventive Senior Applied Scientist to help build industry-leading technologies in speech translation. Our team's mission is to enable Alexa to break down language barriers for our customers.Job responsibilitiesAs a Senior Applied Scientist with the Alexa Artificial Intelligence (AI) team, you will be responsible for developing novel algorithms that advance the state-of-the-art in language processing and entity resolution, driving model and algorithmic improvements, formulating evaluation methodologies and for influencing design and architecture choices. You will leverage Amazon’s heterogeneous data sources and large-scale computing resources to build novel products and services that make use of speech and language technology. You will work in a hybrid, fast-paced organization where scientists and engineers work together and drive improvements to production. You will collaborate with and mentor other scientists to raise the bar of scientific research in Amazon.Amazon is committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace. Amazon is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, protected veteran status, disability, age, or other legally protected status. For individuals with disabilities who would like to request an accommodation, please visit https://www.amazon.jobs/en/disability/us.
US, WA, Redmond
Are you interested in building and driving the technical vision, strategy, and implementation for Kuiper’s LEO Capacity Management Services? Kuiper is hiring a Principal Data Scientist to help lead the analysis, definition and implementation of our global, highly reliable, predictive data driven services that manage the end-to-end resources of Kuiper’s Internet Service for ground and constellation networks.A day in the lifeYou will partner with Product Management, customers, RF, Networking and Beam Planning engineers to understand all capabilities and designs of the Kuiper ISP. You will drive the data driven models of bandwidth, latency and customer segment consumption to create highly reliable, time sensitive, predictive capacity management systems that drive overall monetization and customer experience.An ideal candidate will have analytical, data science, and system engineering skills to model the interdependent business and technical processes needed to operate and expand a world-wide fleet of space communication and ground assets. The candidate will use these models to enhance customer delight by meeting performance agreements, faster decisions, reduced costs, and simplified interactions.About the hiring groupThe Team is responsible for Architecture, design and delivering and end to end Networking systems for both constellation and ground, as well as the services that utilize the network to delivery last mile and and back-haul internet services. This includes extreme scale of global Software Defined Network and Capacity ManagementJob responsibilitiesWe are looking for a Principal Data Scientist on this team. You will be responsible for identifying, scoping, and delivering capacity planning solutions with a focus on Europe; based on a deep understand of your customers' needs, you will work closely with senior leaders, scientists, engineers, and business teams worldwide to develop and implement advanced mathematical and economic models and algorithms. You will identify data and science-related bottlenecks, anticipate and make trade-offs, balance business needs versus scientific and technical complexity and constraints, and guide and manage escalations, collaborating closely with multiple teams to ensure the relevance and impact of your work to business stakeholders.You will need an ability to take large, scientifically complex projects and break them down into manageable hypotheses, design meaningful research questions and analyze the resulting data to inform functional specifications, and then deliver features in a successful and timely manner. You excel at being a thought leader as we chart new courses with our capacity planning technologies, and at defining a vision for products in early stages. Maturity, high judgment, negotiation skills, and the ability to influence and earn the trust of senior leaders are essential to success in this role.Amazon is committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace. Amazon is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, protected veteran status, disability, age, or other legally protected status. For individuals with disabilities who would like to request an accommodation, please visit https://www.amazon.jobs/en/disability/us.
US, CA, Sunnyvale
Are you a passionate scientist in the area of computer vision and machine learning who is aspired to develop new and innovative technologies to new product categories? Are you interested in applying your deep knowledge to new and challenging areas? Are you looking to scale capabilities computer vision and machine learning capabilities to new workload sizes? Are you up to the task of delivering innovative and scalable technology that manages automated recognition of millions of items?You will be part of a passionate team whose missions is to push the frontier of computer vision and machine learning technology into the smart home application area. This is a great opportunity for you to innovate in this space by developing algorithms at the edge and in the cloud, and integrating them into consumer services to enable a premium customer experience. In this role, you will be an owner of the full algorithm development cycle, from sensor evaluation and data engineering to algorithm design, implementation, optimization and deployment. This position also requires experience with developing efficient software components on resource-constrained computing platforms on the edge. You will collaborate with different Amazon teams to make informed decisions on the best practices in machine learning to build highly-optimized integrated hardware and software platforms.Main Responsibilities· Apply best practices to investigate, acquire, process and analyze data sources for algorithm development.· Research and implement the state-of-the-art methods in computer vision and machine learning to deliver algorithms that meets product specifications.· Design, build algorithm evaluation frameworks, schedule and report algorithm performance on a regular basis.· Optimize and deploy algorithms on target hardware platforms.· Establish, develop and maintain frameworks and procedures for image sensor selection and evaluation and image quality monitoring.· Influence system design by making informed decisions on the selection of data sources, algorithms and sensors.Amazon is committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace. Amazon is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, protected veteran status, disability, age, or other legally protected status. For individuals with disabilities who would like to request an accommodation, please visit https://www.amazon.jobs/en/disability/us.
RO, Timisoara
The Amazon Devices team designs and engineers consumer electronics,including the best-selling Ring cameras, Kindle family of products, Firetablets, Fire TV, Amazon Dash, and Amazon Echo.As an Applied Scientist, you will participate in the design,development, and evaluation of models and machine learning (ML)technology to delight our customers. More specifically, as a member of the team, you will be involved in researching state ofthe art Computer Vision (CV) & ML solutions for Amazon devices and cloud services.You will be part of a team delivering features that are well received byour customers.
RO, Timisoara
The Amazon Devices team designs and engineers consumer electronics,including the best-selling Ring cameras, Kindle family of products, Firetablets, Fire TV, Amazon Dash, and Amazon Echo.As an Applied Scientist, you will participate in the design,development, and evaluation of models and machine learning (ML)technology to delight our customers. More specifically, as a member of the team, you will be involved in researching state ofthe art Computer Vision (CV) & ML solutions for Amazon devices and cloud services.You will be part of a team delivering features that are well received byour customers.
US, CA, San Diego
Are you excited to help customers discover the hottest and best reviewed products?The Marketing Tech and Science team helps customers discover and engage with new, popular and relevant products across Amazon worldwide. We do this by combining technology, science, and innovation to build new customer-facing features and experiences alongside cutting edge tools for marketers. You will be responsible for creating and building critical services that automatically generate, target, and optimize Amazon’s cross-category marketing and merchandising. Through the enablement of intelligent marketing campaigns that leverage machine-learning models, you will help to deliver the best possible shopping experience for Amazon’s customers all over the globe.We are looking for analytical problem solvers who enjoy diving into data, excited about data science and statistics, can multi-task, and can credibly interface between engineering teams and business stakeholders. Your analytical abilities, business understanding, and technical savvy will be used to identify specific and actionable opportunities to solve existing business problems and look around corners for future opportunities. Your domain spans the design, development, testing, and deployment of data-driven and highly scalable machine learning solutions in product recommendation.As an Applied Scientist, you bring business and industry context to science and technology decisions. You set the standard for scientific excellence and make decisions that affect the way we build and integrate algorithms. Your solutions are exemplary in terms of algorithm design, clarity, model structure, efficiency, and extensibility. You tackle intrinsically hard problems, acquiring expertise as needed. You decompose complex problems into straightforward solutions.To know more about Amazon science, please visit https://www.amazon.science
US, WA, Seattle
Are you excited about powering Amazon’s physical stores’ expansion through the application of Machine Learning and Big Data technologies? Do you thrive in a fast-moving, innovative environment that values data-driven decision making, scalable solutions, and sound scientific practices? We are looking for experienced scientists to build the next level of intelligence that will help Amazon physical stores grow and succeed.Our team is responsible for building the core intelligence, insights, and algorithms that support the real estate acquisition strategies for Amazon physical stores. We are tackling cutting-edge, complex problems — such as predicting the optimal location for new Amazon stores — by bringing together numerous data assets from disparate sources inside and outside of Amazon, and using best-in-class modeling solutions to extract the most information out of them.You will have a proven track-record of delivering solutions using advanced science approaches. You will be comfortable using a variety of tools and data sources to answer high-impact business questions. You will transform one-off models into automated systems. You will be able to break down complex information and insights into clear and concise language and be comfortable presenting your findings to audiences with a broad range of backgrounds.Responsibilities:· Develop production software systems utilizing advanced algorithms to solve business problems.· Analyze and validate data to ensure high data quality and reliable insights.· Partner with data engineering teams across multiple business lines to improve data assets, quality, metrics and insights.· Proactively identify interesting areas for deep dive investigations and future product development.· Design and execute experiments, and analyze experimental results in collaboration with Product Managers, Business Analysts, Economists, and other specialists.· Leverage industry best practices to establish repeatable applied science practices, principles & processes.
US, IL, Chicago
Are you excited about powering Amazon’s physical stores’ expansion through the application of Machine Learning and Big Data technologies? Do you thrive in a fast-moving, innovative environment that values data-driven decision making, scalable solutions, and sound scientific practices? We are looking for experienced scientists to build the next level of intelligence that will help Amazon physical stores grow and succeed.Our team is responsible for building the core intelligence, insights, and algorithms that support the real estate acquisition strategies for Amazon physical stores. We are tackling cutting-edge, complex problems — such as predicting the optimal location for new Amazon stores — by bringing together numerous data assets from disparate sources inside and outside of Amazon, and using best-in-class modeling solutions to extract the most information out of them.You will have a proven track-record of delivering solutions using advanced science approaches. You will be comfortable using a variety of tools and data sources to answer high-impact business questions. You will transform one-off models into automated systems. You will be able to break down complex information and insights into clear and concise language and be comfortable presenting your findings to audiences with a broad range of backgrounds.Responsibilities:· Develop production software systems utilizing advanced algorithms to solve business problems.· Analyze and validate data to ensure high data quality and reliable insights.· Partner with data engineering teams across multiple business lines to improve data assets, quality, metrics and insights.· Proactively identify interesting areas for deep dive investigations and future product development.· Design and execute experiments, and analyze experimental results in collaboration with Product Managers, Business Analysts, Economists, and other specialists.· Leverage industry best practices to establish repeatable applied science practices, principles & processes.