A simple question determined the course of Illah Nourbakhsh’s career. As a PhD candidate studying robotics at Stanford University, Illah noticed how many of his peers used technology for military purposes. “I kept wondering,” he says, “why do we keep innovating for something we hope is never used? Why can’t we invent stuff that we can champion its use?”
Now, as a professor and head of the robotics masters program at Carnegie Mellon University, and director and founder of CMU’s CREATE Lab, Illah works toward that end every day. His current research projects explore community-based robotics—including educational and social robotics—and ways to use technology to empower individuals and communities. Illah’s past research has included protein structure prediction, software reuse, and mobile robot navigation, and he has served as a group lead at the NASA/Ames Research Center as well.
As part of the Pittsburgh Kids and Creativity Network, Illah and CREATE Lab develop projects that utilize technology to empower children, teaching lifelong skills like problem-solving and teamwork along with technological literacy.
Illah is a member of the Remake Learning Council.