Zero Robotics - SpySPHERES

What is Zero Robotics?
The Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program is a computer programming competition for middle school students where they learn to control satellites aboard the INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION this summer. The five-week STEM curriculum introduces students to computer programming, robotics, and space engineering, and provides hands-on experience programming SPHERES (Synchronized, Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites). The program culminates in a tournament where winning teams’ SPHERES compete aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Middle school participants will get to see the SPHERES operate in space via a live feed from the ISS while NASA astronauts provide real-time commentary.

Who provides this program?
Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program is provided through a partnership between the MIT Space Systems Lab, the Innovation Learning Center, and Aurora Flight Sciences. The Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program is sponsored by NASA, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and the Northrup Grumman Foundation.

The competition
Student participants compete to win a technically challenging game by programming their strategies into the SPHERES. Students’ programs control the satellites' speed, rotation, and direction of travel. The students program their satellites to complete competition objectives, for example navigating obstacles, while conserving resources such as fuel. The programs are autonomous - that is, the students are not able to directly control the satellites while they are running.

Each year’s game is motivated by a problem of interest to NASA and MIT. Students create, edit, save, and simulate projects online. They use a graphical editor to write code, then simulate their programs immediately and see the
results using a simulation. The programming interface and simulation are
entirely web-based, so ZR does not require any software downloads or
computer configuration. The system even allows teams to compete against themselves so that they can test different strategies before finalizing their competition submissions.

What the program offers
Zero Robotics seeks to inspire our next generation of great minds by allowing them unprecedented access to space at the middle school level. By making the benefits and resources of the International Space Station tangible to students, Zero Robotics hopes to cultivate an appreciation of science, technology, engineering and math through healthy, immersive, collaborative competition.

The Results
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, in particular the Marjorie S. Fisher Club of West Palm Beach will be representing the state of Florida in the Zero Robotics National Competition for Middle Schools as the state winners. The National competition will take place on August 12, 2016 at the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, FL. The Naoma Donnelley Haggin Club of Delray Beach placed third in the competition and will be accompanying the Marjorie S. Fisher team to the national competition as a consulting team. Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County was the only Boys & Girls Clubs to enter this competition in the entire state of Florida.  The organization had a total of four teams enter the competition with two of the teams placing in the top three.

A total of 30 Club members will be traveling to the Kennedy Space Center on August 12th sponsored by B/E Aerospace. The manufacturer of aircraft cabin interior products with headquarters in Palm Beach County, is partnering with The Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County and providing the financial support needed for Club members to be able to travel to Titusville, FL.


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