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Swarm Robotics: A Research Project With High School Students As Active Participants

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Robotics in Education

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1155.1 - 15.1155.14



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Paper Authors

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Chiraag Nataraj Conestoga High School

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Sanjeev Reddy Radnor High School

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Mark Woods Villanova University

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Biswanath Samanta Villanova University

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C. Nataraj Villanova University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract



This paper is concerned with an educational project to provide a rich research experience on swarm robotics to high school students. A group of three mobile robots (the popular Lego NXT) was used to implement a ‘search and rescue’ operation. A bio-inspired global optimization technique called particle swarm optimization (PSO) was used as the principal algorithm. Each robot was placed in pre-defined positions with a target position corresponding to a single target. The robots were programmed to search in spirals until the target was found by any one of the robots. Once the target was detected the robots attempted to reach the target using the PSO algorithm. Results were encouraging. The high school students were wholly responsible for all programming and experimental tasks and got an immersive experience of a real-time cutting- edge engineering research application.


Robotics is viewed as a relatively new and exciting field that has the potential to significantly impact the nature of engineering and science education at all levels, from K-12 to graduate school1-7. A recent development in robotics is swarm robotics8, where the use of a large group (swarm) of small, simple and cheaper robots with limited local processing capability in place of a large, powerful and expensive robot is being envisioned in many hazardous, unknown and dynamic environments. The advantages of using swarms instead of a single centralized robot include enhanced capabilities in terms of wider dynamic coverage and fault tolerance. Some extraordinary consequences (not always evident) include self organization and emergence of new patterns and behavior as has been observed in nature in groups of ants, birds and fish, for example. Application areas of robot swarms include: autonomous search and rescue operation, decentralized autonomous systems for protection and damage control, among others. For successful implementation, both hardware and software issues of such co-operative robots need proper investigations8-13. Swarm robotics is hence a legitimate research problem at the cutting edge. This was an important consideration for us as we wanted to ensure that the students would have a rewarding experience of a non-trivial problem that would create an excitement that would sustain their interest and enthusiasm. In addition, the goal of the project was to truly explore the research problem as well in order to obtain new results that could be published in a research venue with the high school students as active and direct participants, and not be used in a secondary role.

Villanova University has a structure of outreach to involve K-12 students including communities which are under-represented in Science and Engineering. Two main projects are the V.E.S.T.E.D. Academy and BEST. The V.E.S.T.E.D. Academy in its fourth year at Villanova University aims to promote academic achievement in mathematics, science, technology, and engineering for at-risk middle and high school students. BEST is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization whose mission is to inspire students to pursue careers in engineering, science, and technology through participation in a sports-like, science and engineering-based robotics

Nataraj, C., & Reddy, S., & Woods, M., & Samanta, B., & Nataraj, C. (2010, June), Swarm Robotics: A Research Project With High School Students As Active Participants Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16649

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