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Posted: 5/11/16

TAMIU DustySWARM Team Takes Top Awards in NASA Swarmathon Virtual Challenge in Florida


The first Swarmathon took place in Florida.  


Texas A&M International University (TAMIU’s) DustySWARM Team celebrated two wins at the first-ever NASA Swarmathon held recently at the Kennedy Space Center, FL.

The TAMIU team placed third overall in the virtual competition and first place in the outreach paper category, visual competition.

Organized by NASA and the University of New Mexico, the first Swarmathon featured 26 universities and community colleges from across the U.S. in both physical and virtual competitions.

The Swarmathon is part of NASA’s efforts to encourage students to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics, teaching and learning in the U.S. Its focus is on small robots.

These small robots are known as “Swarmies” and part of NASA’s Journey to Mars program, focused on resources on Mars. Swarmathon participants get a chance to improve their skills in robotics and computer science, as well as integrating hardware and software.

At Swarmathon, students code small robotic rovers that could hypothetically be sent to Mars and used to collect resources, similar to a swarm of ants all working for a single cause. The NASA-provided robots are also programmed by students to cooperatively map and search an area and retrieve goods that could potentially support life on another planet, such as ice, water, rocks, minerals or construction materials.

TAMIU DustySWARM is a sub-team of DustyTRON Robotics Team and comprised of five systems engineering students: Roger Hernandez, Raquel Yanez, Jorge Gonzalez Jr., Hector Moreno and Valeria Escobar, and Dr. Tariq H. Tashtoush, TAMIU assistant professor of Engineering.

Dr. Tashtoush noted that the wins by the TAMIU team elevates them to participation in next year’s competition.

“By placing third in the virtual contest, the DustySWARM team qualified and has been invited to participate in the physical competition next year. We are applying for next year, where we will be getting three robots to experiment with and create a course to teach students the important of programming languages and their influence on robot performance,” Tashtoush explained.

“The team designed and programmed an algorithm which was used to operate small robots. The algorithm aims to mimic ants’ behavior in finding resources, determining danger and passing information to others. In the competition, 256 barcodes were scattered throughout the terrain to represent important resources for robots to find, collect and return to the starting point. This competition will help NASA in the new idea of sending multiple small robots to help in exploring Mars,” explained Tashtoush.

 For more information, contact Tashtoush at 956.326.2600 or visit offices in the TAMIU Lamar Bruni Vergara Science Center and Planetarium, room 323.

Office hours are from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.

Additional information is also available at and and

See the dedicated Swarmathon site here:


DustySWARM Team Members

Celebrating their win at the NASA Swarmathon Competition are team members, left to right,

Jorge González Jr., Raquel Yanez, Roger Hernández, Valeria Escobar, Hector Moreno and

Dr. Tariq H. Tashtoush, TAMIU assistant professor of Engineering. 

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