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Thought Leaders, Innovators, Way Makers in

the Autonomous Robot Space


Prof. Cynthia Breazeal

Lead Instructor and Principal Investigator

Cynthia Breazeal is a Professor at the MIT Media Lab where she directs the Personal Robots Group. She is also director of the MIT initiative on Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education (RAISE) and is Senior Associate Dean of Open Learning. She is recognized as a pioneer of social robotics and human-robot interaction, is a fellow of the AAAI, and has commercialized personal robots for the home. She has received numerous national and global awards in design, entrepreneurship and innovation. She has spoken at numerous prestigious venues such as the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, TED, and others. Her work is covered in the media including the New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, BBC, Wired, Fast Company, TIME, Forbers, and more. She received her doctorate from MIT in 2000 specializing in artificial intelligence and robotics. She is the lead instructor for this course and is the principal investigator of the Know-Apply-Lead AI Education Research Pilot program.

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Dr. Kate



Kate Darling is a leading expert in technology ethics & policy. She is a Research Scientist at the MIT Media Lab and the author of THE NEW BREED: What Our History with Animals Reveals About Our Future with Robots. Kate’s work looks at the near-term effects of robotic technology, with a particular interest in law, social, and ethical issues. She holds a law degree, as well as a doctorate of sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and an honorary doctorate of sciences from Middlebury College. Kate runs experiments, holds workshops, writes, and speaks about some of the more interesting developments in the world of human-robot interaction, and where we might find ourselves in the future. She will be leading the ethics and policy sessions in the course.


Dr. Sharifa Alghowinem


Sharifa Alghowinem is a visiting scholar at the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab, where she works on AI modeling for computer vision, audio and signal processing. She received her M.Sc. and Ph.D in computer science from Australian National University in 2010 and 2015, specializing in multimodal AI. Her research expertise is on multimodal automatic recognition of human mood and behaviours, such as diagnoses of depression and multi-person interaction analysis, through combining and analyzing behavioural modalities such as speech, eye gaze, head and body gestures. She is also an assistant professor, and the associate director of postgraduate programs at Prince Sultan University in Saudi Arabia. She will be leading the machine vision and supervised learning sessions of the course.




Teaching Staff

Matt Taylor is a learning experience designer and facilitator, with a background in AI implementation. He previously worked as an engineer in natural language processing, moderation tool development, and creative coding platform development. Currently, he designs hands-on learning experiences in STEAM for young people. He also develops learning activities that help to  demystify AI for all people. He also spends time developing technology tools for mutual aid organizations, and organizing tech workers for job equity and inclusion. He will be leading the reinforcement sessions in the course.




Teaching Staff

Nathaniel Hanson is an engineer at MIT Lincoln Laboratory with a focus on technology development for Humanitarian and Disaster Reliefs system. He holds a BS in Computer Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a MS in Computer Science from Boston University. He is concurrently a PhD Candidate in Northeastern University’s Institute for Experiential Robotics. His research interests lie at the intersection of remote sensing technologies and robotics. Nathaniel is active in collaborative efforts with MIT campus, including the Beaver Works Summer Institute as the Lead Instructor for the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) racing program and the New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET) as a mentor for the capstone engineering course.




Course Staff

Jeff Freilich has been at MIT for over twelve years working to develop and nurture research ties between industry and academia, as well as developing technical online courses. Previously, he’s worked in R&D, product management, marketing and business development roles in industry. Jeff holds a B.Sc. in mechanical engineering from Cornell University and a M.Sc. in mechanical engineering from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He also holds a M.Sc. in management from Boston University.


Dr. Xiaoxue


Research Staff

Xiaoxue Du is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab. Her current research at MIT PRG focuses on K-12 Artificial Intelligence literacy. She received  Ed.D in Instructional Technology and Media from Teachers College, Columbia University, following years of experience as a researcher and practitioner in the field of inclusive education, assessment, and assistive technology. 

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Course Staff

Phil Sandy is an administrative assistant in Open Learning and the Media Lab working with Prof. Breazeal. He provides logistical and administrative support for this course. He received his BS in communications and political science at Fitchburg State University. He brings a decade of professional experience as a political videographer. His focus on cultivating the public good continues at MIT through its mission to bring the resources of the institution to better the outside world.

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Maj Megan Muniz

AIA Course Staff

Maj Megan Muniz is an Operations Research (OR) Analyst for the US Air Force.  She is the AIA support person for this course. She graduated from the US Air Force Academy earning a BS in OR. She completed her MS in OR at the Air Force Institute of Technology (2017) and Ph.D. in OR with Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines (2022). She has also served as a Test Analyst in Detachment 2, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Eglin Air Force Base and as an Instructor of Mathematics in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the United States Air Force Academy. Her professional interests lie at the intersection of analytics, optimization, and education – especially when the power of these fields can be utilized to enable and strengthen the U.S Air Force.

Meng Xi

Course Contact

Meng Xi

Meng, MBA / Mech Engineering.
Independent, driven.
Systematic, attentive, versatile, adaptive.
Meng, to learn and to explore.


Brandon Leshchinskiy

Teaching Staff

Brandon Leshchinskiy is a leadership educator and consultant based at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As a leadership coach, he has worked with over 80 professionals, ranging from recent graduates to senior executives, on transforming complex systems in government, media, and other sectors. Brandon also recently finished a year-long AI Innovation Fellowship at the US Air Force-MIT AI Accelerator, where he developed and led workshops on AI technology, strategy, and culture with over 600 military personnel. His fellowship included advising the US Department of Defense on AI strategy via consultations and white papers, as well as moderating a dinner discussion with ~35 of the nation's top defense officials. Brandon holds dual SM degrees in Aeronautics & Astronautics and Technology & Policy from MIT, as well as a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Penn State University.

Safinah Ali

Teaching Staff

Safinah Ali is a graduate student in the Personal Robots Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her work focused on designing robotic interactions for early childhood learning and designing creative AI literacy curricula. Her research is about how AI can help children be more creative and be more engaged in playful learning experiences. She also explores how we can make art with AI and use art to understand AI.

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