Guest Speakers

Guest Speakers

Join us for exciting special presentations throughout the week.


Outsights from My Blind Avatar: An Architect’s New Vision Without Sight

Coming out of surgery to remove a brain tumor, Chris Downey found himself facing a new reality at the age of 45 — total and unexpected sight loss. Unfazed by the apparent paradox of being a “blind architect”, Chris returned to work one month later. While Chris still thinks, creates, and works visually in his mind, his blind persona continually fascinates him with surprising “outsights” — special insights about architecture, technology, and the world around him gained as a result of losing his sight. Join Chris as he shares his newly-found vision and the positive impact his experience has had, and hear his challenge to all to realize a truly smart world through universal inclusive design.

  • Wednesday: 12:30 – 1:20 PM
  • McEnery Convention Center, Hall 2

Dr. Ayanna Howard

Roving for a Better World

At 27, Dr. Ayanna Howard was hired by NASA to lead a team designing a robot for future Mars missions that could “think like a human and adapt to change.” Her accomplishments since then include being named as one of 2015’s most powerful women engineers in the world and as one of Forbes’ 2018 U.S. Top 50 Women in Tech. From creating robots to studying the impact of global warming on the Antarctic ice shelves to founding a company that develops STEM education and therapy products for children and those with varying needs, Ayanna personifies the responsible global citizen. Hear as she delves into the implications of recent advances in robotics and AI and explains the critical importance of ensuring diversity and inclusion at all stages to reduce the risk of unconscious bias and ensuring robots are designed to be accessible to all.

  • Thursday: 12:30 – 1:20 PM
  • McEnery Convention Center, Hall 2

Brown Johnson

Sesame Street: 50 Years and Counting

From its 1969 origins as an experiment gauging the power of television to educate children and level the playing field for underserved preschoolers, Sesame Street has stretched to reach 150 countries, becoming the world’s largest informal educator and bringing learning and laughter to generations of children across the globe. Brown Johnson, EVP and Creative Director for Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street and much more, marks the iconic show’s 50th anniversary with a peek behind the scenes, including the ways Sesame Street uses media in new ways to stay vital and relevant for children in an evolving landscape.

  • Friday: 12:30 – 1:20 PM
  • McEnery Convention Center, Hall 2