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Computer Science and Information Systems

MC NASA Swarmathon 

  Competition Wide Shot_s

The NASA Swarmathon is a competition organized by the University of New Mexico and funded by NASA in which students from Minority Service Universities or Community Colleges are challenged to develop algorithms for robotic swarms designed to explore Mars.

Montgomery College team with their mentor Dr. Kuijt participated in the Virtual Competition of 2017 against 15 other teams in the Virtual Competition. The code developed by the MC students collected the most cubes in total, which led the team to win first place in the competition. 

The Montgomery College team is participating in the Physical Competition of 2018. And is looking forward to win first place again. This year’s Physical Competition is confirmed by 24 teams that have to develop search algorithms that make the rovers find cubes through obstacles and bring them to the center nest.

Future Events:

·       02/02/2018 Technical Check-In 3 (Link coming soon)

·       03/01/2018 Technical Check-In 4 Final Check-In

·       03/20/2018 Final Code Submission

·       03/25/2018 Technical and Outreach Reports due

·       April 17-19, 2018 NASA Swarmathon 2018 Competition at Kennedy Space Center

NASA Swarmathon Competition

2017 Competition:

In 2017 the Montgomery College team participated in the Swarmathon Virtual Competition were they created algorithms for the virtual Swarmies to collect resources (cubes) in a virtual arena built by Gazebo software. As described in the rules, teams may not communicate with their robots in any way during the competition. All robot actions must be autonomous.

2018 Competition

     Physical SwarmathonCompetition.

The MC team has sign up this year for the Physical Competition. The purpose of this Competition is to develop search algorithms for autonomous swarm robots to look at the arena for cube which represent the resources found at Mars. This year’s competition has a addition of obstacles where the rovers have to navigate around.

Montgomery College team will be competing against 24 teams from different places of the U.S

Montgomery College team competed against 15 other teams from all over the country. This was the second year of the NASA Swarmathon Competition, and the first year that Montgomery College has participated. The MC team won first place and a prize of $3000 in the last year competition by developing two search algorithms that collected the most cubes in total.

Achievement (Award)

2017 Virtual Swarmathon Competition Awards

A team of 12 Montgomery College computer science and engineering students won the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) virtual Swarmathon competition April 20, beating 14 other college teams, including many four-year schools.

The goal of the competition is to develop cooperative robotics for space exploration. Swarmathon teams develop computer code used by swarms of robots to autonomously find and collect the most resources in an arena without human supervision or maps. To meet this challenge, students develop new algorithms (rules encoded in computer programs) that can be used by robot swarms for other applications such as cleaning up hazardous waste or rescuing people in disaster zones.

The Montgomery College team spent the Spring 2017 semester learning and programming robots under the guidance of Dr. David Kuijt, professor of computer science. Seven of the students traveled to the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the competition that lasted April 18 through April 20.

The Swarmathon is administered under a cooperative agreement between the NASA Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) and The University of New Mexico (UNM). Over 1,000 students have participated in the Swarmathon since 2015. Participants are from minority serving institutions.

The Montgomery College team was awarded a monetary prize and members are already thinking about future challenges: In the next few months, look for the team to be testing code on physical robots in campus parking lots.    


2017 Award Ceremony Montgomery College

2017 award ceremony montgomery college_s

NASA Swarmathon Competition

Selected Teams:



CMSC269: NASA Swarmathon Independent Study

Student requirements/prerequisites

Students interested in signing up for the NASA Swarmathon Independent Study (CMSC 269) in Spring 2018 should go to the NASA Swarmathon website ( and read over the material presented there in detail.  The Montgomery College Swarmathon team won the 2017 Virtual Competition in April, defeating 15 other 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities, and we will be participating in the 2018 Physical Competition, using (and improving) our code but testing it on actual Swarmie robots.  The programming required will be:

  • in C++
  • in a Unix environment
  • in a large group (with divided and shared programming responsibilities)

To sign up for the Swarmathon Independent Study, students will need:

  • Skill in C++, C, or Java programming.  CMSC140 or equivalent is the absolute minimum if combined with additional complex programming projects; CMSC140 alone likely does not include sufficient complex programming project experience to prepare you adequately for this endeavor.  CMSC140 followed by CMSC201, CMSC203, or CMSC226 is good; the EE140/150 series is also good.  Similar programming experience outside Montgomery College courses is also acceptable.
  • Some exposure to object-oriented programming techniques.  Any significant programming with multiple classes in Java should fulfill this, whether in CMSC201, CMSC203, or outside experience; CMSC 226 is even better.  Coverage of ADT and separate compilation in EE150 also covers this.
  • Motivation and self-direction.  Dr. Kuijt will be available as a focused resource, especially to assist in startup problems (bringing students up to speed in filling gaps in their understanding of C++, the Unix environment, object-oriented programming, path planning, GIS, and other technical issues), but this is an independent study, not a formal course.
  • There will be regular meetings (Monday 10-11am or Thursday 2-3pm) to share information and keep groups moving forward; students must attend at least one meeting every week.  There are no formal lectures.  Each student is expected to supply their own focused attention, and individual groups will need to meet together regularly on their own schedules apart from the weekly CMSC269 meetings.  In addition to class meetings we will be meeting to test code on our robots in the parking lot; dates and times TBA but reflecting student needs; location TBA.  The course begins 6/18, but if we are shipped our Swarmie robots before then we may begin activities early, so check your email regularly.
  • Some exposure to Unix or GitHub is an advantage, but not required.
  • Any experience working on group programming projects is likewise an advantage.

Students who were part of the successful Spring 2017 Swarmathon Competition need not sign up for the summer course to participate (but are encouraged to do so); new students must register for the independent study.

There will be a similar 1-credit session of CMSC 269 in the Fall 2017 semester and in Spring 2018.  The actual competition occurs in April 2018.

Instructor permission is required.  Students interested in signing up for the CMSC 269 NASA Swarmathon Independent Study should contact Dr. Kuijt to provide information about their qualifications as described above.  Dr. Kuijt is available in his office (SC454-F; Rockville campus) or by email ( Contact him if you have any questions.

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