2017 RSS Workshop


“Become a Swarm Robotics Hacker Overnight”

co-located within the 2017 Robotics: Science Systems Conference  

Saturday, July 15th – Sunday, July 16th 2017
at: Lesley University, Cambridge, MA



A limited number of students will be selected.  Those selected will have all travel expenses paid, be provided with housing in university dormitories, and will receive meal cards. Expenses for taxis, public transport or other incidentals will be at a student’s own expense and will not be able to be reimbursed.

Co-located with the Robotics: Science and Systems Conference (hosted at MIT), this two-day, multi-stage workshop will convene students and scholars of robotics for educational talks on swarm robotic algorithms, simulations, and hardware platforms by experts in the field, including:

Radhika Nagpal, Professor, Harvard University

Carlo Pinciroli, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Spring Berman, Arizona State University

James McLurkin, Senior Hardware Engineer, Google

Kurt Leucht, Software Engineer, NASA Kennedy Space Center

Melanie Moses, Associate Professor, University of New Mexico

At the end of the first day, participants will transition to an 18-hour, all-night swarm robotics “Hackathon” involving autonomous ground robots. The Hackathon participants will be tasked with rapidly developing algorithms to coordinate robot swarms in an indoor, GPS-denied environment. The Hackathon will culminate in a spirited final competition at midday on the second day, with an award for the best-performing student team.



Tuesday, July 11th
Arrival 10 Mellon Street (next to White Hall) Full Conference Attendees Arrive checkin 9am – 9pm
5:00 – 7pm White Hall Dinner and check-in with Swarmathon team for students arriving Tuesday (for students attending the full conference)
Wednesday, July 12th see RSS conference schedule
Thursday, July 13th see RSS conference schedule
Friday, July 14th 9 Mellon Street (next to White Hall) Workshop only students arrive check-in to dorms 9am – 9pm
evening, time TBD Bates Hall, McKim Building, Boston Public Library Conference banquet dinner (for students attending the full conference with RSS banquet tickets)
5:00 – 7pm White Hall Dinner and check-in for Students arriving on Friday with Swarmathon team (for students attending only the workshop)
Saturday, July 15th
8:00 AM – 8:30 AM Check-in for students arriving on Saturday.
8:00 AM – 8:45 AM White Hall Student Breakfast
9:00 AM Washburn Auditorium Welcome Joshua Hecker, Senior Software Engineer, Lockheed Martin
9:15 AM Washburn Auditorium Morning Keynote – Collective Artificial Intelligence Radhika Napal, Professor, Harvard University
10:00 AM Washburn Auditorium Coffee Break/discussion
10:15 AM Washburn Auditorium Designing Scalable Swarms Melanie Moses, Associate Professor, University of New Mexico
10:45 AM Washburn Auditorium Swarms for Space Exploration (video presentation) Kurt Leucht, Software Engineer, NASA Kennedy Space Center
11:15 AM Washburn Auditorium Bio-Inspired Control of Robot Swarms Spring Berman, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University
11:45 PM White Hall Lunch
1:15 PM Washburn Auditorium Afternoon Keynote (title TBD) James McLurkin, Senior Hardware Engineer, Google
2:00 PM Washburn Auditorium Coffee Break/discussion
2:15 PM Washburn Auditorium Invited Talk (title TBD) Carlo Pinciroli, Assistant Professor, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
2:45 PM Washburn Auditorium Introduction to Swarm Robotics Hackathon Challenge Joshua Hecker, Senior Software Engineer, Lockheed Martin
3:15 PM Washburn Auditorium Hackathon team assignments Joshua Hecker, Senior Software Engineer, Lockheed Martin
3:30 PM Breakout Rooms Hackathon Begins
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM White Hall Student Dinner break
6:30 PM TBD Dinner for Invited Speakers
9:00 PM Washburn Auditorium Q&A with Organizers & Techs
10:00 PM breakout rooms/dorm rooms Hack and sleep in shifts
Sunday, July 16, 2017
8:00 AM – 10:00 AM White Hall Breakfast for students
10:00 AM Washburn Auditorium Competition with Full Swarm
11:30 AM Washburn Auditorium Winners Announced
11:45 PM Washburn Auditorium Discussions & Wrapup
12:30 PM Washburn Auditorium Hackathon Clean up
1:00pm – 2:00pm White Hall Lunch
Free time/ catch up on sleep!
5:o0pm – 7:00pm White Hall Dinner for students
Monday, July 17, 2017
8:00 AM – 10:00 AM White Hall Breakfast for students



Dr. Melanie Moses, Associate Professor, University of New Mexico
Professor Melanie Moses earned a B.S. from Stanford University in Symbolic Systems and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of New Mexico in 2005. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of New Mexico and External Faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. Her interdisciplinary research exists at the boundaries of Computer Science and Biology with over 50 peer reviewed publications in computational and mathematical biology and biologically-inspired swarm robotics. Research in the Moses Lab focuses on computational modeling of complex biological systems, particularly on cooperative search strategies in immune systems and ant colonies. Her research also applies principles from biology to design computational systems, particularly robotic swarms that replicate ant behaviors to perform collective tasks. Professor Moses is the PI of the NSF-funded New Mexico CSforAll program that has taught programming through computer modeling and to 60 high school teachers and over 1000 of their students. She is also the PI of the NASA Swarmathon, a swarm robotics competition that has engaged over 1000 college students from Minority Serving Institutions to develop new swarm robotic algorithms to revolutionize space exploration.

Joshua Hecker, Software Engineer – Lockheed Martin Autonomous Systems
Prior to joining Lockheed, Josh was a Computer Science postdoctoral researcher at UNM. He studies the interactions and interdependencies between the behaviors of biologically-inspired robot swarms and the environments in which they are located. His research focuses on developing robust search algorithms, scalable agent-based models, and efficient physical robots that operate autonomously in real-world environments. As Technical Lead for the NASA Swarmathon, an innovative national robotics competition, he oversaw a highly-motivated team of computer scientists and engineers that are tasked with designing, building, and programming 60 ground robots to be distributed, free of charge, to minority-serving institutions around the country. He also mentored high school and undergraduate students through SFI’s Project GUTS, UNM’s NSF STEP and Open House events, and the RoboRAVE and VEX robotics competitions.


Radhika Nagpal, Professor, Harvard University
Radhika Nagpal is the Kavli Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University and a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. At Harvard, she leads the Self-organizing Systems Research Group (SSR) and her research interests span computer science, robotics, and biology. Recent work includes the Termes robots for collective construction and the Kilobot thousand-robot swarm (Science 2014). She is also the author of a blog article on tenure-track life, and an advocate for a more inclusive and nurturing culture in science. Her awards include the Microsoft New Faculty Fellowship (2005), NSF Career Award (2007), Anita Borg Early Career Award (2010), Radcliffe Fellowship (2012), and most recently, Nature 10 award (2014).


Kurt Leucht, Software Engineer, NASA Kennedy Space Center
Kurt Leucht serves as a Software Development Team Lead at NASA KSC Swamp Works.  In this role he works on and leads multiple software development teams in the command and control area of KSC. His projects include: monitoring and control of regolith mining robots; monitoring and control and software algorithm research using small mobile robots inspired by ants; robotic sensor research & testing, especially in dusty environments; and sharing launch data with the general public.


Spring Berman, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University
Spring Berman is an assistant professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Arizona State University, where she directs the Autonomous Collective Systems Laboratory. She received the B.S.E. degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University in 2005 and the Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010. From 2010 to 2012, she was a postdoctoral researcher in Computer Science at Harvard University. Her research focuses on controlling swarms of resource-limited robots to reliably perform collective tasks in realistic environments.  She was a recipient of the 2014 DARPA Young Faculty Award and the 2016 ONR Young Investigator Award.


James McLurkin, Senior Hardware Engineer, Google
James McLurkin is a Sr. Hardware Engineer at Google and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Rice University. He researches distributed algorithms for multi-agent systems, which is software that produces complex group behaviors from the interactions of many simple individuals.   These ideas are not new: ants, bees, wasps, and termites have been running this type of software for 120 million years. In order to test these ideas, he has lead research teams using some of the largest groups of robots in the world.  Previously, McLurkin was a Lead Research Scientist at iRobot, and was the 2003 recipient of the Lemelson-MIT student prize for invention.  He holds a S.B. in Electrical Engineering with a Minor in Mechanical Engineering from M.I.T., a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from University of California, Berkeley, and a S.M. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from M.I.T.

As an independent consultant, McLurkin has advised many mechanical and engineering projects for clients such as Walt Disney Imagineering, Sensable Technologies, and MicroDisplay Corp. As a speaker for organizations such as Interval Research, Inc., Dartmouth College, LEGO Advanced Design Center, and the Association of Science-Technology Centers, he is dedicated to illustrating the fun and excitement in science and engineering.

In 2003, McLurkin received the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, which is awarded to burgeoning MIT student inventors. Also in 2003, he was recognized by Time magazine as one of five leading robotics engineers in their “Rise of the Machines” feature, and by Black Enterprise magazine as a “Best and Brightest Under 40.” In 2002, he was featured in the Lemelson Center’s nationwide interactive traveling exhibit, “Invention at Play,” which began at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

Carlo Pinciroli, Assistant Professor, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Pinciroli is a researcher at MIST, École Polytechnique de Montréal in Canada under the supervision of Prof. Giovanni Beltrame. In 2005 he obtained a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering at Politecnico di Milano, Italy and a Master’s degree in Computer Science at University of Illinois at Chicago. He then worked for one year in several projects for Barclays Bank PLC group. In 2006 he joined the IRIDIA laboratory at Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, under the supervision of Prof. Marco Dorigo. While at IRIDIA, he obtained a Diplôme d’études approfondies in 2007 and a PhD in applied sciences in 2014, and he completed a 8-month post-doctoral period. Dr. Pinciroli’s research focuses on software engineering for swarm robotics systems. He published 45 peer-reviewed articles and 2 book chapters. In 2015, F.R.S.-FNRS awarded him the most prestigious postdoctoral scholarship in Belgium (Chargé des Recherches).