Award-winning professor ignites passion for STEM learning in Africa

ayorkor-150x150Ashesi Professor Dr. Ayorkor Korsah, a Ghanaian with a Ph.D. in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence from Carnegie Mellon University, is a recipient of a 2013 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award (TDIA). Dr. Korsah is a co-founder of the African Robotics Network (AFRON) and a leader in using robotics to inspire African high school students through the Ashesi Robotics program(AR/X).

Disruptive innovation, and the $10 Robot Design Challenge

The TDIA, based on the studies of Harvard Business School Professor Christensen, and led by Tribeca’s Craig Hatkoff, celebrates people whose ideas and projects have created meaningful impact in their fields. Its goal is to highlight applications of, and advancements, in disruptive innovation theory that have spread far beyond their original technological and industrial realms.

Dr. Korsah was named an honoree, together with Ken Goldberg of UC Berkeley, for their work in founding the African Robotics Network (AFRON). Since its launch in 2012, AFRON has grown to 300 members from 25 countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Tanzania, with affiliated members in the U.S and France, among others. One of AFRON’s most recent projects was the “$10 Robot” Design Challenge that saw participants create extremely low cost robots to aid robotics education.

Dr. Korsah, center, accepting TDIA award

Enriching Lives in Ghana

Previously, in 2012, Dr. Korsah, was honored with an Ideas 2012 Award as one of three Ghanaian Achievers during the Festival of Ideas 2012 event held in Accra in August. The Ideas Award is given to Ghanaians under 40 who have invested significantly in a project or organisation that enriches the lives of Ghanaians.

Ayorkor was celebrated for “having worked on diverse projects, including designing an automated system for monitoring water usage on Ashesi University’s campususing robotics to motivate high school high school students to study computer science and engineering, and studying the potential role of technology in improving child literacy. Ayorkor also co-founded the Africa Robotics Network, a community aimed at promoting collaboration among institutions and individuals engaged in robotics in Africa.”

“I am very honoured to have received this award,” Ayorkor said, “ all this work was done in collaboration with respected colleagues, including students, both in Ghana and internationally. I dedicate this award to them and to my family.”

Dr. Korsah teaches Artificial Intelligence/Robotics, Programming 1, 2 & 3, Data Structures and Algorithm. She has a Ph.D. in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, an MSc., Engineering, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH ( 2003), and a B.A., Computer Science modified with Engineering, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH ( 2001)

To be an engineer is to be a creator

At the groundbreaking ceremony for Ashesi’s engineering building (the Engineering program is scheduled for a Fall 2015 launch), Dr. Korsah, touched on the importance of engineering to the world and shared ten reasons why engineering was a fun career for any young person to consider. “To be an engineer is to be a creator, and it impacts a lot of people when you are the creator of the technology that powers our lives,” said Dr. Ayorkor Korsah. “Each and everyone of us has to play an active role in encouraging the young people around us to go into engineering and consider it as a profession.”