On Friday, August 10, teams of middle school students gathered in 17 different locations across the United States and Russia to watch the live webcast of the 2018 Zero Robotics Middle School Finals. With NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold acting as referees, floating robotic satellites called SPHERES carried out programs written by the students. The webcast was available to the public and got more than 100,000 views on Facebook!
Zero Robotics is a free, curriculum-driven program with a middle school competition every summer and a high school competition every fall. Registration for the 2018 High School Tournament is now open! If students or teachers in 9th–12th grade are interested in starting a Zero Robotics team, registration ends September 26! Learn more at zerorobotics.mit.edu or contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
The theme for the middle school tournament, called LIFE-SPHERES, was based on NASA’s efforts to look for signs of life on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Student teams programmed the SPHERES to simulate drilling for ice samples at the moon’s south pole.
Student teams from Puerto Rico participated for the first time this year. Miray Ramy of Eureka Enrichment Services said, “I can’t begin to express how exciting the day was. We all felt so proud to be part of this extraordinary educational opportunity for kids. I have done so many STEM programs, but none as profound and real world—or, rather, out of this world—as this one! To hear astronauts call out ‘Puerto Rico!’ from space was truly emotional for all of us. Our kids, the teachers and our staff were filled with awe, excitement, pride, and happiness. It was really one of the coolest experiences I have had working as an educator.”
The championship went to a joint Russian and Pennsylvanian team—a nice reflection of a similar collaboration onboard the ISS. Two crew members are from Russia and Drew Feustel is originally from Pennsylvania. Ricky Arnold said, “I think it’s awesome that we have an alliance just like the one up here on the ISS that won today.” Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev congratulated the winning alliance in English and Russian.
Good luck to the winners and to all participating teams for the unique opportunity of seeing their code control the SPHERES satellites on ISS! Find more details on the ISS National Lab Blog. View the archived webcast. And remember to register for the Zero Robotics High School Tournament by September 26!