Colonizing Mars through space exploration is no easy feat. Tackling contemporary issues to space exploration requires huge multi-disciplinary teams of computer scientists, biologists, engineers, over years and years of research. Who do you picture doing this work? Are they in grandeous high-tech NASA labs? This week, Dr. Melanie Moses, from the University of New Mexico Department of Computer Science, showed us how she is changing these conceptions by inviting thousands of high school students, most of whom are women and students of color, to participate in "Swarmathon" competitions in large parking lots. Students program algorithms for biomimetic robots (initially modeled after ants and other swarming biological creatures), for the robots to efficiently collect resources, modeling Mars exploration in ways that could prove beneficial to NASA. Importantly, Dr. Moses' research has shown over 90% of participants were interested in pursuing degrees in Computer Science. Taken together, this outreach program can not only provide important algorithms for NASA, but can diversify our conceptions of what it means to be a space explorer.
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