Photo credit: Growing Up in Santa Cruz
Students from the Cabrillo College Robotics Club far outpaced the competition to win the fourth annual NASA Swarmathon, a nationwide autonomous robotics competition with the goal of advancing future space exploration.
Cabrillo has participated in the NASA Swarmathon since 2016. The competition requires participants to build robot kits and program the robots with algorithms to go out and forage for resources in the form of coded blocks to bring back to the nest.
This year, the team of CIS students built upon previous experience in the competition to create a robot that was able to collect 20 resources on a challenging obstacle course — four times the amount as the second-place team.
“This [Cabrillo] is the best swarming team that we’ve seen over the past four years of the competition,” said Professor Melanie Moses, the Principal Investigator for the NASA Swarmathon. “Their amazing engineering skills and algorithms went into winning this award, and all of this work will advance the future of space exploration.”
Robotics Club Faculty Adviser Michael Matera said the team worked hard to learn from past mistakes and create a robot with calibrated sensors for improved accuracy and confidence on the Swarmathon course.
“I couldn’t be more proud of so many students who gave enormous amounts of their time to make the team successful,” said Matera. “Over the course of three years of competition, we struggled to understand how complex and error-prone navigating the world is, and we learned a lot, each time improving our design, culminating in this year’s win.”
Matera and CIS student Darren Churchill attended the Swarmathon Workshop at the Kennedy Space Center in June. The award includes a $2,000 prize and a “Swarmie” trophy.
“What a remarkable success for the Cabrillo Robotics team and their faculty adviser,” said Gerlinde Brady, Cabrillo’s Dean of Career Technical Education & Workforce Development. “The Cabrillo team stood head and shoulders above their competitors, which speaks to the quality of education that Cabrillo provides and to the team’s talent and commitment. I am so impressed with their accomplishment.”