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Middle School Students Program Satellites, Compete Aboard International Space Station

           Zero Robotics

For More Information Contact:

Katie Kross,
Project Manager Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network
Voices for Georgia’s Children
Cell: 617-908-7408 Office: 404-521-0355



On August 13th, approximately 350 middle school students will gather at universities and NASA centers across the country for the Zero Robotics Middle School Competition. Students will get to see SPHERES (Synchronized, Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites) that they have programmed over the summer compete against each other aboard the International Space Station as a NASA astronaut provides real time commentary on the competition via live feed.  Georgia’s event will be held at Georgia Gwinnett College from 9:00am – 2:30pm. 

Zero Robotics is led by MIT’s Space Systems Laboratory, which originally designed the SPHERES, with partners the Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership, Top Coder, and Aurora Flight Sciences, and with the sponsorship of CASIS, DARPA, and NASA. This program is aimed at engaging students in innovative, complementary learning opportunities during the summer, as well as increasing student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

During the five-week Zero Robotics Middle School Program, middle school students in California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, and Massachusetts worked collaboratively with program staff to learn physics, mathematics, and computer programming through interactive activities and hands-on experience programming the SPHERES. SPHERES are bowling ball-sized spherical satellites used inside the ISS to perform test flight formation and docking maneuvers. Students spent much of the summer learning to write computer programs and formulating strategies for their SPHERES in anticipation of the final competition.

Participating summer programs in Georgia include 100 Black Men of Atlanta, the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (Atlanta), Generation Infocus (Decatur), the Jeryme Brown and Mitchell Smalls Foundation (Jonesboro), and the Salvation Army Boys and Girls’ Club of Metro Atlanta.  Each of these programs was selected to participate in this year’s program through a mini grant invitational through the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network (GSAN).  “Zero Robotics has given some of Georgia’s youth the opportunity to engage in STEM programming over the summer in a very hands-on and interactive way.  The final ISS competition is an exciting culmination of their work and a once in a lifetime experience for the students to engage with astronauts and have their work highlighted in a national competition,” said Katie Kross, Program Manager of GSAN.

The Zero Robotics Middle School Program was started as a component of NASA’s Summer of Innovation, a nationwide program targeted at encouraging STEM education for middle school students. The pilot in 2010 was centered regionally around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, and in 2013 the program has grown to include multiple locations around the country.


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