Amal Nanavati

Resume Google Scholar Linkedin Github Contact

I'm a PhD Candidate at the University of Washington's School of Computer Science and Engineering, co-advised by Siddhartha Srinivasa and Maya Cakmak. My research interests lie in human-robot interaction and assistive robotics, and my research goal is to develop robots that work well with and around people. I’ve worked towards this goal across multiple applications, spanning from robot-assisted feeding for people with motor impairments to guide robots for people who are blind to drone delivery. This research has resulted in technical contributions including modeling human behavior, shared autonomy, and end-to-end system development. Before my PhD, I was a Fulbright Fellow at Kyoto University doing research with Takayuki Kanda, and received a B.S. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University doing research with Aaron Steinfeld.

Robots Publications Teaching Press


8 years experience building end-to-end robot systems

Assistive Dextrous Arm (ADA)

2021 – Present

ADA is a wheelchair-attached robot arm that enables people with motor impairments to independently feed themselves. I worked closely with over a dozen end-users to identify their needs and priorities, learn robot-executable food acquisition actions, and develop and evaluate the end-to-end system. The system has fed end-users diverse meals of their choice—grilled salmon, pizza, salads—in diverse out-of-lab environments—a cafeteria, conference room, and office. We are currently working towards deploying this system in a user's home for a week.

Zipline Platform 2 Droid

Winter 2023

Zipline's Platform 2 Droid is a precision urban drone delivery system. I investigated user perceptions of droid motion during delivery, and worked with the motion planning and controls teams to integrate the insights into the autonomy stack. For that research, I added several features to a simulation environment to generate realistic delivery videos. I also prototyped and evaluated multiple ways for workers to scan packages before loading them into the droid.



Podi is a guide robot for people who are blind or low-vision. I studied user preferences for how the robot drops them off to their destination. For the robot to match those preferences, I developed a model of how users follow a guide robot and integrated the model into the robot's planning algorithm, enabling the robot to plan motions for the coupled human-robot system.


Summer 2024

Stay tuned for the outcomes of my Summer 2024 internship!



CSE/STAT 416 Intro to Machine Learning

Summer 2022

I was the instructor for CSE/STAT 416 Introduction to Machine Learning (ML), where I taught 80+ undergraduate and graduate students deep learning, regression, matrix factorization, and social considerations in ML. I managed a team of 5 TAs to prepare and teach sections, respond to student questions, and grade. Instructor evaluation: 4.7/5.0.

US – Japan Cultural Exchange

2018 – 2019

I was a guest lectureer in Japanese and American classrooms, teaching K-8 students about the others' culture. My lectures in Japanese classrooms focused on the American multiculturalism, landmarks, games, and songs. My lectures in American classrooms focused on Japanese temples, public transportation, history, and culture.


2016 – 2018

I co-founded and ran Teknowledge, a computer science (CS) outreach organization. We taught afterschool CS at under-resourced public schools and community centers. I developed Intro Python (6th – 11th grade) and Inquiry-based Machine Learning (10th – 11th grade) curricula, and advised teachers and administrators as they converted our curriculum into a mandatory 8th grade CS course. I managed communications, logistics, and training for 25 mentors, 130+ students, and 7 community partners. I also participated in an initial investigation of integrating K-12 computational thinking curricula into rural KY schools, an initiative that has since flourished.


Date Venue Title
Nov 17, 2023 IEEE Spectrum Video Friday > Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos
Nov 16, 2023 University of Washington News Q&A: How an assistive-feeding robot went from picking up fruit salads to whole meals
Nov 15, 2023 GeekWire UW computer science research event offers a glimpse of the future at the dawn of AI
June 1, 2023 UW CREATE User-informed, robot-assisted social dining for people with motor impairments
May 18, 2023 Allen School News Setting the table for a brighter future: With help from robots, Allen School researchers are making social dining more accessible
Nov 10, 2022 Jaime Richards From your pupils you'll be taught - bite timing
July 14, 2022 IEEE Spectrum Wandering Robots in the Wild
Apr 30, 2021 Allen School News Allen School students recognized for excellence in research by the National Science Foundation
2020 The Link Forging Change: Three SCS Alumni Take Action Against Racial Inequality in Their Communities
2020 Fulbright Program Posse Foundation and Reach the World: Fulbrighters Advancing Opportunity
Aug 22, 2018 IEEE Sight Blog RAS SIGHT Project, Speak Up!” Wins Two Prizes
May 17, 2018 Carnegie Mellon University News Nanavati Wins Inaugural K&L Gates Prize
May 14, 2018 Computer Science Department News Amal Nanavati Wins Fulbright Award, Inaugural K&L Gates Prize
May 14, 2018 Dietrich College News Two Dietrich College Students Receive Fulbright Awards
Apr 26, 2017 The Almanac CMU students, Google help South Fayette improve tech curriculum