Zero Robotics

Zero Robotics: Zero Robotics is a robotics programming competition where the robots are SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) inside the International Space Station. The competition starts online, on this website, where teams program the SPHERES to solve an annual challenge. After several phases of virtual competition in a simulation environment that mimics the real SPHERES, finalists are selected to compete in a live championship aboard the ISS.

Mission: Zero Robotics hopes to provide a unique, challenging learning environment that inspires young minds to apply and sharpen their science, technology, engineering, and math skills. Through a series of competitions starting virtually online and aboard the International Space Station, students exercise their creative problem-solving skills and take on real world design problems. With a zero cost, zero setup, web-based environment that uses the latest web technologies, Zero Robotics provides students worldwide with a testbed to carry out space experiments.

Objective: The participants compete to win a technically challenging game by programming their strategies into the SPHERES satellites. The game is motivated by a current problem of interest to DARPA, NASA and MIT.  Student software controls satellite speed, rotation, direction of travel, etc.  Depending on the game premise, the students must program their satellites to complete game objectives (navigate obstacles, pick up virtual objects, etc.) while conserving resources (fuel, charge, etc.) and staying within specified time and code-size limits.  The programs are “autonomous” – that is, the students cannot control the satellites during the test itself.