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Posted: 5/04/17

TAMIU DustySWARM Robotics Team Places at NASA Competition


NASA Swarmathon logo

The Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) DustySWARM Robotics Team returned from NASA’s Second Annual Swarmathon Competition after placing 6th in the overall competition, and receiving two awards.

The first award is for third place in the “Best Technical Report—Physical” category, and the second is for second place in the “High School Team – Swarmathon Virtual Competition.” The competition was held recently at NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Organized by NASA and the University of New Mexico, the Swarmathon featured 19 teams representing 20 U.S. universities and community colleges in the Swarmathon-physical competition.

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. The competition is related to NASA’s mission to pioneer a human presence on Mars. This competition will help NASA develop new ideas in their quest of sending multiple small robots to exploring Mars.

These small robots are known as “Swarmies,” and part of NASA’s Journey to Mars program, focused on locating and collecting 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 TAMIU DustyTRON Robotics Students Organization and comprised of five systems engineering students (Abe Peña, Edgar Varela, Esteban Herrera, Oscar Gutierrez, and Juan Medina) and Dr. Tariq H. Tashtoush, TAMIU assistant professor of Engineering.

In addition, TAMIU DustyTRON Robotics Team will participate in NASA’s Eighth Annual Robotic Mining Competition (RMC) at Kennedy Space Center this May.

The RMC competition is for university-level students to design and build a mining robot that can traverse a challenging simulated Martian terrain. The mining robot must then excavate the regolith simulant and/or the ice simulant (gravel) and return the excavated mass for deposit into the collector bin to simulate an off-world, in situ resource mining mission.

The complexities of the challenge include the abrasive characteristics of the regolith simulant, the weight and size limitations of the mining robot and the ability to tele-operate it from a remote Mission Control Center. The on-site mining category will require teams to consider a number of design and operation factors such as dust tolerance and dust projection, communications, vehicle mass, energy/power required and autonomy.

Beside the on-site mining category, teams must also submit an engineering paper that explains their design philosophy. The teams also get extra points for engaging in social media and public engagement throughout the year, and have the option of giving a presentation to judges while at Kennedy Space Center. Points from all categories are tallied for the Grand Prize, the Joe Kosmos Award for Excellence.

For more information, contact Dr. 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:

See the dedicated NASA RMC site

TAMIU DustySWARM Team at Kennedy Space Center

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