Women in Robotics Update: Elizabeth Croft, Helen Greiner, Heather Knight

by , and
22 November 2020

share this:

“Fearless Girl should provide the spark to inspire more female engineers”, writes Elizabeth Croft, Dean and Faculty of Engineering at Monash University.

“Girls are natural engineers, highly capable in maths and physics. We need to show them that these tools can be used to design a better world….So far, we’ve done a poor job of communicating to girls the very powerful impact they can make through an engineering career.” Croft continues, providing us with the inspiration to introduce the second of our new series of Women in Robotics Updates, featuring Elizabeth Croft, Helen Greiner and Heather Knight from our first “25 women in robotics you need to know about” list in 2013.

Elizabeth Croft

Dean and Faculty of Engineering at Monash University

Elizabeth Croft (featured 2013) is now a Dean and Faculty of Engineering division at Monash University in Australia, advancing human-robot interaction, industrial robotics, trajectory generation and diversity in STEM. Previously she was the Founding Director of the Collaborative Advanced Robotics and Intelligent Systems Laboratory at the University of British Columbia (UBC). As the Marshall Bauder Professor in Engineering Economics, Business and Management Training from 2015-2017, she launched the Master of Engineering Leadership degrees at the UBC.

Recognized as one of the 100 most powerful women in Canada in 2014 by Women’s Executive Network, Croft also received the RA McLachlan Peak Career Award for Professional Engineering in the Province of British Columbia, Canada in 2018. She is a fellow of the ASME, Engineers Australia, Engineers Canada, and the Canadian Academy of Engineering. She is also the recipient of other awards such as the Wendy MacDonald Award, Diversity Champion, Vancouver Board of Trade of 2016, and Just Desserts Award of University British Columbia, Alma Mater Society in 2015. She has more than 200 research publications and almost 6000 citations.

She is an advocate for women in Engineering and has an exceptional record of propelling women’s representation and participation in engineering. As the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (2010-2015), 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 levels. During this period Croft successfully increased female enrollment in Engineering to 30%.

Helen Greiner

CEO, Cofounder and Founder of Tertill, iRobot and Cyphy Works

Helen Greiner (featured in 2013), is now a founder of Tertill , in addition to founding iRobot and CyPhy Works (aka Aria Insights). Tertill is a solar-powered, weed-snipping robot for home gardens patrolling throughout the day and looks somewhat like an outdoor Roomba, one of the products from iRobot, the world’s first commercially successful consumer robotics product.

Greiner has received numerous awards and accolades, including being named an “Innovator for the Next Century” by Technology Review Magazine. She received the DEMO God Award at the DEMO Conference in 2014 and was named a Presidential Ambassador for Global Leadership (PAGE) by US President, Barack Obama and US Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker. She was recognized for leadership in the design, development, and application of practical robots by the National Academy of Engineering, and was named “woman of the year” at Wentworth Institute of Technology in 2018. In 2018, she was also sworn in as a Highly Qualified Expert for the US Army. You can hear her speak in 2021 at the finals of the $2m GoFly competition .

As a child Greiner became fascinated by the robots of StarWars, particularly the three-foot-tall spunky R2D2. Says Greiner “He had moods, emotions, and dare I say, his own agenda. This was exciting to me—he was a creature, an artificial creature.” Consistently pioneering in building the helping robots to perform dull, dirty and dangerous jobs and launching robotics into the consumer market since 2008, she says, “If we don’t take robots to the next level, we’ll have a lot of explaining to do to our grandchildren.”

Heather Knight

Assistant Professor at Oregon State University

Heather Knight, (featured 2013) is now an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science department at Oregon State University and directs the CHARISMA* Research Lab. In CHARISMA Research Lab, she operationalizes methods for the performing arts to make more emotive and engaging robots, exploring minimal social robots, robot ethics, charismatic machines, and multi-robot/multi-human social interaction.

Knight has presented a TED talk: Silicon-Based Comedy in 2010 where she demonstrated a robot stand-up comedian “Data” which has gotten almost 1 million views. She was mentioned in Forbes List’s 30 under 30 in Science and named one of AdWeek’s top 100 creatives in 2017. In 2017, she was also a Robotic Artist in Residence at X, the Moonshot Factory. Her installations have been featured at the Smithsonian-Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, TED, Pop! Tech, LACMA, SIGGRAPH, and the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, Italy. She is also the Assistant Director of Robotics at Humanity+ and a fellow at the Hybrid Realities Institute and a National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellow.

She is also a founder of Marilyn Monrobot, a robot theater company performing comedy, dance and even Rube Goldberg Machine installations. Here, she successfully organizes the annual ‘Robot Film Festival’ which awards Botskers to various robot films and robot film stars. The film archives make for great viewing.


Want to keep reading? There are 180 more stories on our 2013 to 2020 lists. Why not nominate someone for inclusion next year!

And we encourage #womeninrobotics and women who’d like to work in robotics to join our professional network at


Sunita Pokharel

Andra Keay is the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, founder of Women in Robotics and is a mentor, investor and advisor to startups, accelerators and think tanks, with a strong interest in commercializing socially positive robotics and AI.
Andra Keay is the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, founder of Women in Robotics and is a mentor, investor and advisor to startups, accelerators and think tanks, with a strong interest in commercializing socially positive robotics and AI.

Women In Robotics is a global community for women working in robotics, or who aspire to work in robotics
Women In Robotics is a global community for women working in robotics, or who aspire to work in robotics

Related posts :

New imaging method makes tiny robots visible in the body

Microrobots have the potential to revolutionize medicine. Researchers at the Max Planck ETH Centre for Learning Systems have now developed an imaging technique that for the first time recognises cell-​sized microrobots individually and at high resolution in a living organism.
20 May 2022, by

A draft open standard for an Ethical Black Box

Within the RoboTIPS project, we have developed and tested several model of Ethical Black Boxes, including one for an e-puck robot, and another for the MIRO robot.
19 May 2022, by

Unable to attend #ICRA2022 for accessibility issues? Or just curious to see robots?

There are many things that can make it difficult to attend an in person conference in the United States and so the ICRA Organizing Committee, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society and OhmniLabs would like to help you attend ICRA virtually.
17 May 2022, by



Duckietown Competition Spotlight, with Dr Liam Paull

Dr. Liam Paull, cofounder of the Duckietown competition talks about the only robotics competition where Rubber Duckies are the passengers on an autonomous driving track.
17 May 2022, by

Designing societally beneficial Reinforcement Learning (RL) systems

In this post, we aim to illustrate the different modalities harms can take when augmented with the temporal axis of RL. To combat these novel societal risks, we also propose a new kind of documentation for dynamic Machine Learning systems which aims to assess and monitor these risks both before and after deployment.
15 May 2022, by

Innovative ‘smart socks’ could help millions living with dementia

‘Smart socks’ that track rising distress in the wearer could improve the wellbeing of millions of people with dementia, non-verbal autism and other conditions that affect communication.
13 May 2022, by

©2021 - ROBOTS Association


©2021 - ROBOTS Association