UNM Computer Science Professor Melanie Moses is leading a national competition that will teach students to program small robots to swarm, according to a UNM release.
UNM collaborated with NASA to build 55 Swarm robots, and schools across the country received 36 of the robots, according to the release. The rest of the robots were either used for testing or will be part of the competition scheduled for this weekend.
On April 21-22, faculty and students will travel to the Kennedy Space Center to participate in the physical robotics portion of the Swarmathon Competition, according to the release. Around 100 of the more than 500 students from 36 minority-serving institutions plan to attend.
Teams from CNM, Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute and Navajo Tech in Crownpoint, NM are competing, according to the release.
12 teams developed search algorithms for the small robots, which are programmed to communicate and interact as a collective swarm, according to the release. Moses developed the idea of programming the Swarmies after studying the interaction between ants as they foraged for food.
During the competition, algorithms developed by the teams will run on the Swarmies in an official competition arena, according to the release.
Groups will be ranked by the number of resources their search algorithm is able to locate during a specific period of time.
“The Swarmathon harnesses student creativity to solve difficult and complex problems. This is an incredible opportunity for students to develop technologies to explore our world and beyond,” Moses is quoted as saying in the release.
According to the release, The Swarmathon challenges students to develop algorithms in software and integrate their code into robotic platforms which could revolutionize space exploration by collectively collecting extraplanetary resources.
This week, NASA is testing the teams' code on physical robots at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, according to the release.
NASA said the competition is part of the Minority University Research Program, which strives to ensure that underrepresented students participate in NASA education and research, according to the release.