Montgomery College students win National Robotics Competition

Students from Montgomery College won the National Robotics Competition which could benefit space exploration. Wednesday, May 24, 2017 (ABC7 photo)

The robotics contest attracts students from around the country. "We were competing with various other universities and it was also with NASA so it was a great honor," 20-year-old Montgomery College student Abhi Sharma expressed.

The NASA Swarmathon engages students in robotics development for space exploration. Montgomery College Computer Science Professor Dr. David Kuijt explained, "If you're going to collect fuel or water or air for a man mission to Mars then you need to do it before the people arrive and so you need to have robots doing it."

In the Swarmathon competition, Montgomery College students used coding to make the robots more efficient. Computer Science student Denys Fedorchuk told ABC7 News, "Robots have several behaviors. Pickup behavior, drop off behavior, driving behavior. All of that had to be set up in code." Dr. Kuijt continued, "They had to work out how to get the robots to explore the area without interfering with each other; to collect cubes and bring them back."

The Montgomery College team won the virtual competition which is limited to computers. The prize? Bragging rights and $3,000.

Now that the students have placed first in the virtual competition, they plan to prepare for the physical competition next year when they'll get an opportunity to work with real robots. For now, team members like Fedorchuk are still savoring the win. "You think that now nothing is impossible because you had this thing that you had no idea about and you figured it out," he said.

The Swarmathon is administered by NASA and the University of New Mexico. More than a 1,000 students have participated since 2015.