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Joanne Pransky Celebration of Women in Robotics

5 winners, $1,000 each
Application Deadline
Sep 1, 2024
Winners Announced
Oct 1, 2024
Education Level
High School, Undergraduate
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Field of Study:
Education Level:
High school, two or four-year undergraduate or graduate student

Joanne Pransky made an impact on countless young women in robotics during her life.

As 'The World's First Robot Psychiatrist,' modeled after Isaac Asimov's Susan Calvin from the iRobot stories, Joanne brought the social side of robots to the forefront, long before robots were at all common. Joanne served as a mentor and inspiration for many young women and girls who are often discouraged or pushed away from STEM fields such as robotics.

This scholarship aims to honor the impact of Joanne Pransky by supporting women in robotics throughout their education.

Any female-identifying high school, two or four-year undergraduate or graduate student who is interested in working in robotics may apply for this scholarship.

To apply, write a short science fiction story about the challenges or opportunities of robotics in the near future.

Selection Criteria:
Ambition, Drive, Impact
Published April 9, 2024
Essay Topic

Isaac Asimov's science fiction inspired generations of real roboticists. Write a short science fiction story or essay about the challenges or opportunities of robotics in the near future.

500–1000 words

Winning Application

Isle Vaughn
University of North TexasRichardson, TX
I have always wondered about what makes something human. I know that the overarching condition of being human is being a homo sapien, but what else. I am a homo sapien, I am human, but am I anything other than human? Can I be anything other than human? I have been told that you have to be born from a human woman to be human, but what about c-sections? What about children who are born from trans-men or intersex people? Are they human? Society says that all of these children are human so it has to be something else. The Britannica describes humans as being similar and related to apes but having a highly developed brain and an ability to think abstractly. Philosophers describe being human as having the ability to create art and poetry but any animal can paint and any modern AI can write poetry. Give me five minutes with any Data knockoff and I can get a sonnet that would make any bard weep. Sure AIs and animals can’t appreciate art like humans. I mean robots haven’t yet reached that point, emotions are hard, I get it, but what do you call a birds mating dance but art with a purpose. There has to be more. What makes a human no longer human? Is it the monstrous act that they commit? Again, this can’t be it. Throughout history, people have committed rape, genocide, torture, and general fucked up shit yet have still been seen as people, as humans. Some say that the fact that humans can decide to be good and evil makes us human. The concept of free will and all. Unlike animals, we can stop ourselves from acting on our base needs or thoughts. What about aliens? Though we have not yet encountered sentient life out there in the galaxy, what if there was a being who could appreciate art and poetry? A being who does have free will and the ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings and stop themselves from behaving on instinct. Would we consider that creature human? Would we consider them not human based on their looks? What does a human look like? We come in so many shapes and colors that there was a long-time belief that only one race was human. Yet they are all still people, they are all still human. I look human, I act human, I have free will, I am a homo sapien, I can appreciate art and the beauty of the world but I am still not human. Why can’t I be viewed as a person? I was made to be human, I am flesh and bone yet why can’t I be human? I am looked at in horror by my creators even though they made me. I was made not from a womb, but from a biobag, an artificial womb. I was made to be perfect, the beginning of a new era of humanity, but I am not human. I am a fake, I am a monster, I am a mistake. I was created to further humanity but all I have done is prove that it is a mistake to play god. I am perfect, there is no flaw on my skin, everything is perfectly symmetrical and I am in compliance with every modern beauty standard. I am not too fat, not too thin, I am well muscled without being considered too built. I am without flaw, but not human…… I can be normal, I can love, hate, eat, sleep, think, and dream and yet I am not a person and all because I was made in a lab. All because I was designed and not created. I will never be human, all because some scientists decided that humans needed to evolve further. We need to be better but if this is how we treat better then why evolve in the first place?
Mariana Cruz-Gonzalez
Austin Community College DistrictManor, TX
For their final engineering project the senior students of Elwood University where instructed to present a robotic idea for the benefit of society. Professor Levoy made a huge emphasis on past engineers who attempted to improve the world, only to fail with a legacy of death. “When it comes to the biggest engineering catastrophes, it usually includes the fact that the current laws of the time allowed for negligence and carelessness. Take for instance the disastrous events of 3-Mile Island Nuclear Meltdown, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse, and the Space Shuttle Challenger Failure. The laws of safety and ethics is one of the key points in your project. If you cannot predict the flaws and greed of humanity perhaps you would feel more at home with a business degree”. Sam had one more course, just one more course to graduation. All she needed to do was complete this project. So what robotic field should she choose? When people think of robots they tend to think of cyborgs, servants, brooms, drones, war drones, war-anything really. And with the advancements of AI more of the unthinkable could be a great starting point. That’s when Sam started thinking of her little freshman self. “I want to work on artificial islands, artificial wombs, rescue technology and general robots.” As a freshman she was interested in a variety of different fields, and now of which she realized would probably not get to all during her lifetime. So after much debate she chose the combination of a medical robot. “Let’s start with a simple scenario, imagine a world where our Robotic helpers recorded our most vulnerable moments, in regards to healthcare and public servitude. Cameras are needed for Robots to interact with the human world. Where does that data end up? Who has access to those archived videos? What could they use that for? It’s a sad reality to think about, but people are already invading people’s privacy with regular cameras. So what we need to start with is Laws in regards to Camera/Surveillance ethics. This includes video, voice, and human imitation. Especially when combining a physical body with pre-conditioned actions.” Sam had been talking over her presentation showcasing over twenty different people, and in common their crimes of artificially created pornography, illegal recordings, and such. “To make a robotic healthcare worker, they must also follow HIPAA and for them that involves image and voice recordings.” Switching to a new slide Sam presented hospital safety regulations. “Another set of Laws we should be thinking about in terms of Robotics is regarding safety. To operators, consumers, and to the living and non-living entities.” On the slide was a picture of a bombed hospital and an armed man in a hospital. “When faced with an active or inactive threat, the base programming of a robot should be to save human lives. But if we deal with human who intends to kill others, what would the program choose?” “Kill humans (values x,y) Do not kill humans (if values (<x,y))” “What consensus should we reach for robots in these scenarios?” After the stressful week, on the final day of lecture Professor Levoy had one last point of wisdom for his students. “Great work on your projects everyone, I do hope you can reach a position in transforming your ideas into reality. As a general consensus it is up to the future engineers of the world to shape and build it. I hope you all find the greatest success!
Quynh Anh Le
Lehigh UniversityBethlehem, PA
Growing up in a struggling Asian family, life felt like an uphill battle from the very beginning. My parents worked tirelessly in low-paying jobs, trying to make ends meet. Every day, I balanced providing for the family and nurturing our dreams. This challenging backdrop ignited my passion for robotics and made me realize the immense opportunities this field could bring to my life and countless others. Our small, cramped apartment was a constant reminder of our financial difficulties. The walls were thin, the furniture worn, and opportunities seemed scarce. I watched my parents exhaust themselves, working multiple jobs to keep a roof over our heads and d on the table. They were determined, resilient, and driven by an unwavering love for their children, but the struggle was real and left its mark on all of us. As the eldest child, I felt a deep sense of responsibility to alleviate the burden on my parents. Working a part-time carefree childhood, I worked part-time jobs to contribute to the family's income. Every penny I earned was a small step toward easing our financial woes, but it was clear that we needed more than just determination to break free from the cycle of poverty. It was during high school that I discovered the world of robotics with my club GART 6520. While researching potential careers that could offer opportunities for personal and financial growth, I stumbled upon the stories of individuals who had harnessed the power of technology to transform Thebes. Robotics, in particular, stood out as a field filled with possibilities. The more I delved into this, the more I evolved its potential to change lives and the fields of between. It wasn't just about building robots; it was about creating solutions to real-world problems and pushing the boundaries of an area where innovation and compassion could intersect, igniting a fire within me. As I dove deeper into my studies and aspirations in robotics, I began to see a vision of the future where technology could be a powerful force for positive change. I envisioned robots that could assist struggling families like mine, which had once been insurmountable. These machines would be more than just tools; they would be companions, caregivers, educators, and therapists. In this future, robotic companions would support older people, easing the burden on families who often grapple with the challenges of caring for aging relatives while juggling work and other responsibilities. They would offer personalized education to children who lacked access to quality tutoring, leveling the playing field and opening doors to brighter futures. These AI companions would also serve as virtual therapists and support individuals and families who, like us, had faced poverty and mental health struggles. My family would give me a profound sense of purpose. I saw a catalyze unity in robotics to improve our existence and the lives of others facing similar challenges vengefully. My journey into this field would be long, but fueled by technology, I could be a catalyst for positive change, bridging gaps and creating opportunities where none existed. In the years that followed, I dedicated myself to my studies at Lehigh University and sought advanced skills and knowledge in the medical technology field. I knew that the path ahead would be filled with obstacles, but the memory of, I am more convinced, a brighter future for families like ours served as my guiding light. In a world where robotics and technology are advancing astonishingly, I am more convinced than ever that these fields hold the key to a future where struggle and hardship can be transformed into opportunity and prosperity. My journey into the world of robotics is not just a personal pursuit; it is a mission to create a more equitable and compassionate world, one where technology serves as a bridge, connecting individuals and communities and where the dreams of those from humble beginnings can become a reality.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Sep 1, 2024. Winners will be announced on Oct 1, 2024.