2019 Workshop at Kennedy Space Center

NASA Swarmathon Workshop

Tue, June 11th, Wed 12th, Thur 13th, 2019
at the John F. Kennedy Space Center Astronaut Memorial Facility

To culminate the 4th and final year of the Swarmathon, we will hold a Swarmathon Workshop and Award Ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. This will be an opportunity for students and mentors showcase the best of the Swarmathon! We will have several distinguished invited speakers, a poster session, an opportunity to talk to NASA employees and find out about NASA internships. See the schedule below for more details.

Professor Melanie Moses earned a B.S. from Stanford University in Symbolic Systems, an interdisciplinary program in cognition and computation, and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of New Mexico in 2005. She is currently a 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. Her research lab includes 14 includes post docs, undergraduate and graduate students and high school interns from Computer Science and Biology. Professor Moses was the co-director of the NIH funded UNM Program in Interdisciplinary Biological and Biomedical Sciences 2013 – 2015, and directs the CSforAll course, an introductory programming course in computer modeling and simulation in which 400 New Mexico high school students have been introduced to computer science and earned dual credit at UNM. Professor Moses is the Principal Investigator for the NASA Swarmathon, a swarm robotics competition that aims to engage 1000 students from Minority Serving Institutions to develop new swarm robotic algorithms to revolutionize space exploration. She is honored to have been a Ford Foundation Dissertation Diversity Fellow and a Microsoft Research New Faculty Fellowship Finalist, and to have received the UNM Outstanding New Teacher of the Year Award and the School of Engineering New Faculty Awards for Excellence in Teaching and Research.

Professor Odest Chadwicke Jenkins, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan. Prof. Jenkins earned his B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics at Alma College (1996), M.S. in Computer Science at Georgia Tech (1998), and Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Southern California (2003). He previously served on the faculty of Brown University in Computer Science (2004-15). His research addresses problems in interactive robotics and human-robot interaction, primarily focused on mobile manipulation, robot perception, and robot learning from demonstration. His research often intersects topics in computer vision, machine learning, and computer animation. Prof. Jenkins has been recognized as a Sloan Research Fellow in 2009. He is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for his work in physics-based human tracking from video. His work has also been supported by Young Investigator awards from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for his research in learning dynamical primitives from human motion, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) for his work in manifold learning and multi-robot coordination and the National Science Foundation (NSF) for robot learning from multivalued human demonstrations. Prof. Jenkins is a Senior Member of the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He is currently a member of the Defense Science Study Group (2018-19).

Dr. Joshua Hecker is a Senior Software Developer at the Lockheed Martin Autonomous Systems Group where he works on autonomous vehicles. While at post-doc a the University of New Mexico he studied the interactions and interdependencies between the behaviors of biologically-inspired robot swarms and the environments in which they are located. His research focused 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 for its first two years, 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 mentors 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.

Kurt Leucht is a Software Developer at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center. Kurt used to be quiet and shy as a child. But he found his voice along with his passion while working in the NASA Swamp Works lab on software for robots and other systems that could someday help us live off the land on Mars during manned exploration missions. He started at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center 28 years ago as a young college intern and then graduated to electronics failure analysis investigator. Then he worked as a software developer and tester for several command and control systems and advisory systems. Now he performs exploration research and technology development for NASA. That’s tech-speak for preparing the way for humans to live on Mars! Kurt is a foremost proponent of robot-facilitated human exploration of Mars and other worlds.

Jordan Kennedy is earning her doctorate in Material Science and Mechanical Engineering at Harvard University. She is both an experimentalist and a field researcher, who is using bioinspired methods to think differently about distributed tasks such as construction.  For example, she is currently studying the building behaviour of the North American beaver. Understanding how beavers collaborate to build durable structures has wide-ranging implications for autonomous construction with robotic systems, with applications ranging from disaster recovery to planetary exploration. She is working under the guidance of Professor Radhika Nagpal as part of the Self-Organizing Systems Research Group and Professor Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan as part of the Applied Math Lab at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Jordan earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Montana State University – Bozeman. She grew up on a cattle ranch in northwestern Montana. 


Tuesday, 11th June, 2019

8:00Near KSC VC Ticket BoothRegistration
8:30Astronaut Memorial FacilityContinental Breakfast
9:00Opening Remarks
Prof. Melanie Moses
9:30Invited Talk: Jordan Kennedy 
10:15Coffee Break
10:30Student/Mentor Panel
11:15Invited Talk: Kurt Leucht
13:00NASA Internship Information
13:30Invited Talk: Dr. Josh Hecker
14:15Invited Talk: Prof. Odest (Chad) Jenkins


Student Lighting Talks
15:30Interactive Poster Session
and Dinner
17:30End Day 1

Wednesday, 12th June, 2019

9:00Explore KSC
15:30DebusTeam Photo Opportunity
16:00DebusAward Ceremony
16:30DebusDine with an Astronaut
18:00End Day 2

Thursday, 13th June, 2019

9:00Explore KSC
18:00End Day 3

We are offering a $300 prize for best scientific poster.

Poster Guidelines

Your poster submissions should detail the technical and scientific contribution of your work on the Swarmathon challenge. In particular, you will be judged on how well you describe your search algorithm and how you improved the sensing and actuation of the Swarmie. Diagrams of your search strategy will be particularly helpful in helping the NASA judges understand your approach.

We will not provide strict poster size requirements but please keep in mind that the standard size for most conferences is 48″ in width by 36″ in height. 

NASA Engineers will be instructed to judge your poster using the following four criteria (Foraging Strategy, Swarmie Software Improvements, Experiments and Results, and Overall). For each criterion the judge will record absent, needs work, good, or excellent. The winning poster will be selected based on the judges’ feedback.

Foraging Strategy. The poster should discuss the details of the foraging strategy the team used. For example, did their robots share information about the resources they discovered, employ a geometric search pattern, and/or did some robots use a different foraging strategy than others? How much randomness did the team’s robots use in their foraging strategy or was it deterministic? Does the poster make good use of graphics to communicate the search strategy?

Swarmie Software Improvements such as improvements to robot sensing and actuation. For example, did the team tune the EKF localization parameters, improve target collection or drop off, or obstacle avoidance and wall following? Does the poster make good use of graphics to communicate improvements to the Swarmie’s performance?

Experiments and Results. The poster should describe the experiments teams performed to determine which strategy and Swarmie improvements they decided to use in the competition. Were there any strategies that the team considered but discarded because they did not perform well in their experiments? Teams should present some of their results from testing their approach at their home institution. How many targets did they collect in those tests? How well does the team present their results with charts and plots?

Overall. Does the poster present a coherent message describing the team’s technical contribution to the Swarmathon. Did the team use the code from previous Swamathons that we made public to inform their entry this year? If so which teams’ code did they leverage?

We suggest you use one of the following poster templates:

For Latex: https://www.overleaf.com/articles/the-flyby-model-of-chondrule-formation-an-investigation-into-the-viability-ofgranoblastic-olivine-aggregates-as-type-i-chondrule-precursor-material/wbcdppbrfbpn

For Microsoft Powerpoint: https://templates.office.com/en-US/Poster-blue-and-brown-design-TM00001023

North Carolina State University has helpful advice on how to create an effective poster presentation: https://projects.ncsu.edu/project/posters/index.html