NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) has selected the University of New Mexico (UNM) for a cooperative agreement to manage the agency’s Swarmathon challenge, an innovative swarm robotics competition.

The university was selected from among a nationwide pool of 14 proposals after a rigorous peer review by education and technical experts. The university will receive an award totaling almost $1.8 million, paid in annual increments of $600,000 for a maximum of three years, based on the availability of funds and satisfactory performance.

The goal of the Swarmathon is to foster the development of integrated hardware and software to support the work done by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington. The challenge will be held annually between 2016 and 2018.

During the competition, robots will operate in concert to autonomously search for, retrieve and map resources. Eventually, robot swarms could be used on other planets, as well as on Earth, for resource exploration and use. 

MUREP science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) engagement awards promote STEM literacy and enhance the capability of institutions to perform NASA-related research and education. The goals of the program are to increase the number of NASA-focused STEM experiences that engage underrepresented groups in active learning, disseminate innovative practices and programs in STEM teaching and STEM learning, and increase the number of undergraduate and graduate degrees in NASA-related fields awarded to students from minority serving institutions.

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