Computer Science ETDs

Publication Date



The task of searching a space is critical to a wide range of diverse applications such as land mine clearing and planetary exploration. Because applications frequently require searching remote or hazardous locations, and because the task is easily divisible, it is natural to consider the use of multi-robot teams to accomplish the search task. An important topic of research in this area is the division of the task among robot agents. Interrelated with subtask assignment is failure handling, in the sense that, when an agent fails, its part of the task must then be performed by other agents. This thesis describes Hopscotch, a multi-agent search strategy that divides the search area into a grid of lots. Each agent is assigned responsibility to search one lot at a time, and upon completing the search of that lot the agent is assigned a new lot. Assignment occurs in real time using a simple contract net. Because lots that have been previously searched are skipped, the order of search from the point of view of a particular agent is reminiscent of the progression of steps in the playground game of Hopscotch. Decomposition of the search area is a common approach to multi-agent search, and auction-based contract net strategies have appeared in recent literature as a method of task allocation in multi-agent systems. The Hopscotch strategy combines the two, with a strong focus on robust tolerance of agent failures. Contract nets typically divide all known tasks among available resources. In contrast, Hopscotch limits each agent to one assigned lot at a time, so that failure of an agent compels re-allocation of only one lot search task. Furthermore, the contract net is implemented in an unconventional manner that empowers each agent with responsibility for contract management. This novel combination of real-time assignment and decentralized management allows Hopscotch to resiliently cope with agent failures. The Hopscotch strategy was modeled and compared to other multi-agent strate- gies that tackle the search task in a variety of ways. Simulation results show that Hopscotch is failure-tolerant and very effective in comparison to the other approaches in terms of both search time and search efficiency. Although the search task modeled here is a basic one, results from simulations show the promise of using this strategy for more complicated scenarios, and with actual robot agents.




multi-agent, search, coverage, task allocation, mobile robots, cellular decomposition, contract net, swarm robotics

Document Type


Degree Name

Computer Science

Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Computer Science

First Advisor

Moses, Melanie E.

First Committee Member (Chair)

Moses, Melanie E.

Second Committee Member

Tapia, Lydia

Third Committee Member

Fierro, Rafael