Zero Robotics is a five-week STEM curriculum that introduces students to computer programming, robotics, and space engineering, and provides hands-on experience programming SPHERES, which stands for Synchronized, Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites.
Lewis and Brown were invited to the finals tournament at Georgia Tech where winning SPHERES teams from across the country competed aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Participants were able to see the SPHERES operate in space via a live feed from the ISS while NASA astronauts provide real-time commentary; and with the help of Lewis and Brown’s codes, Georgia placed 3rd overall. Georgia held 2nd place until the 4th round.
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
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.
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.