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 during the summer. A 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 get the chance 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.
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.
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.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County registered five (5) Middle School teams for the Summer 2017 competition which included 6 other organizations around the state. After 4 weeks of work and testing, the team from the Neil S. Hirsch Club, the Chimney Hoppers, placed first in the state of Florida. The teams from the Florence De George Club and the Naoma Donnelley Haggin Club tied for fourth place, the Boca Raton Club finished in seventh and the Marjorie S. Fisher Club placed eighth. As winners of the state competition, the Chimney Hoppers represented the state of Florida in the National competition that took place on August 11, 2017 at the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, FL. Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County sent all five teams to the national competition to experience a live uplink to the International Space Station (ISS). The trip was sponsored by Rockwell Collins. A leader in aviation and high-integrity solutions for commercial and military customers around the world, Rockwell Collins partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County and provided the financial support needed for Club members to be able to travel to Titusville, FL. The Taylor Family Foundation provided additional support for this program.