SUBJECT: Ph.D. Dissertation Defense
BY: Nathaniel Mlot
TIME: Friday, August 9, 2013, 10:00 a.m.
PLACE: Love Building, 210
TITLE: Fire Ant Self-Assemblages
COMMITTEE: Dr. David Hu, Co-Chair (ME)
Dr. Craig Tovey, Co-Chair (ISYE)
Dr. Michael Leamy (ME)
Dr. Alexander Alexeev (ME)
Dr. Michael Goodisman (BIO)


We investigate the self-assemblages of fire ants. Our studies are motivated in part by applications in the field of swarm robotics in which the building block is a simple pro- grammable element from which complex patterns or behaviors emerge. Intelligence is decentralized, as is the case with social insects such as fire ants. While swarming, fire ants link their legs and jaws together to form functional structures such as floating rafts, towers, bridges, and bivouacs. In this combined experimental and theoretical study, we investigate their means of construction with the vision of providing guidance and design of programmable swarm robotics. Using scanning electron microscopy and computed tomog- raphy scans, we quantify the internal structure and connectivity that provides the ant mass with rigidity, strength, and water-repellency. Using time-lapse photography, we record the construction and deconstruction rates of ant rafts and towers. We rationalize these rates using mathematical models based on the observed trajectories, behaviors, and quantity of ants in these structures.