Women in STEM: Catie Cuan

Last Updated: March 31, 2022 10:34 am
Women in STEM: Catie Cuan

Women in STEM: Catie Cuan

Photo source: LinkedIn

Conventional wisdom taught us that art and technology were polar opposites, but with the advent of computer programming and the imagination of those using it, that notion has been turned on its head. Let’s dance!

Catie Cuan is an artist and a Robotics PhD Candidate at Stanford University. She considers herself a dancer, choreographer, and researcher, combining her passion for dance and STEM to teach robots how to dance!⁠ How cool is that?

At Tynker, we encourage young coders to express their creativity by integrating their artistic side with computer programming. That’s why we’re so excited to feature Catie in our Women in STEM series during Women’s History Month.

Let’s find out more about her journey in STEM! For starters, Catie believes that dance plays an important role in designing the intricate communicative movements of the robots we bring into our homes.

From her Twitter feed @CatieCuan:

“Dancing with robots has been a technical and creative exploration for me, stretching my own perceived limitations of where, how, and when a body can move.”

Catie loves to dance, performing in productions with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Chicago among others. She’s also very interested in technology and how it can be incorporated into her love for dancing and choreography.

Catie received a Bachelor of Arts in Activities and Societies: High Honors in 2012. And in 2020, Catie earned her Master’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. Currently at Stanford, she’s working toward her Robotics PhD by studying haptic feedback and interactions with robots, which is known as dancing with machines.

In her TED Talk titled Teaching Robots How To Dance, Catie discussed how dance can inform the design of robot movement:

“I love dancing with robots. My imagination, it goes crazy when I choreograph them. It’s like this giant mishmash of code, breath, metal, muscles, and a little bit of magic.”

In 2019, Catie was selected as an ambassador with AAAS IF/THEN® (the American Association for the Advancement of Science), a national initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies to support women innovators in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) and inspire the next generation of girls to blaze a STEM trail of their own.

March is Women’s History Month and the Smithsonian is celebrating by honoring the power of women in STEM to shape a better world with an exhibit of 120 life-size 3D-printed statues of the IF/THEN ambassadors. And Catie is one of them! Check her out here.

Speaking to Forbes, Catie said:

“There’s a lot of research that shows the primary attribute of an object that humans react to is how it moves. It’s not color. It’s not what an object sounds like.”

Each statue comes with a unique QR code revealing their inspirational stories; “from protecting wildlife, discovering galaxies, building YouTube’s platform, to trying to cure cancer.”

Truly an inspiration to young artists and coders everywhere. We can’t wait to see what Catie does next!


About Tynker

Tynker enables children to learn computer programming in a fun and imaginative way. More than 60 million kids worldwide have started learning to code using Tynker.