Melanie Moses
Melanie Moses

NASA's Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) has selected the University of New Mexico for a new cooperative agreement, which includes a three-year, $1.8 million grant, to manage the agency's “Swarmathon" challenge.

As part of the collaboration, Swarmathon aims to engage 1,000 students at 50 Minority Service Institutions (MSI) in cutting edge computer science and engineering research.

Swarmathon emerged from the collaboration between the research lab of Melanie Moses, UNM associate professor of Computer Science and NASA KSC Swamp Works. The collaboration builds on the Moses lab’s ant-inspired search algorithms, evolutionary simulations and iAnt swarm of cooperative robots, and NASA KSC Swamp Works’ physical robots and hardware innovations.

”Swarmathon will harness student creativity to solve difficult and complex problems,” said Moses. “This is an incredible opportunity for students to develop technologies to explore our world and beyond."

The first-ever competition will will be held in 2016 at the NASA Kennedy Space Center and will challenge students from MSIs across the country to advance cooperative swarm robotics and its evenual use in resource exploration on Mars, asteroids and beyond.

During the competition, robots will work cooperatively to autonomously search for and retrieve resources in unmapped environments. The tiered competitions will engage undergraduates in developing search algorithms and implementing them in physical robots. 

Teams will compete virtually and on-site at NASA KSC. College participants will also be selected for paid research internships and will involve local high school students in a parallel virtual competition.

The Moses lab will manage the Swarmathon competition and support the teams’ success through tutorials, webinars and other technical assistance.

For additional information about Swarmathon, contact swarmathon@cs.unm.edu.