Secondary-school students can play the ultimate robot game: the annual Zero Robotics tournament turns the International Space Station into a playing field for European students to control minisatellites with self-developed software.
Controlling volleyball-sized satellites in space is not easy. SPHERES − short for Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites – move around the space station using 12 jets powered by compressed gas.
These autonomous robot satellites have their own power, propulsion and navigation. To master the SPHERES, students must write code to fulfill a mission. The details of this year’s mission will be revealed in September.
This is the third time European contenders have the chance to run their commands in space. The goal of this tournament is to build engineering skills for students, such as problem solving, software operations and teamwork.
From virtual to orbital
Just as in any international competition, the road to the finals is long and challenging. The contest starts with simulation competitions of increasing difficulty held online.
Competitors can create and visualize their code to get ready for the game from a Web browser and free of charge.
Finalists from the online simulation will see their commands run by the SPHERES satellites on the space station transmitted live from space. Each finalist will be composed of a three-team alliance from different European countries.
The final event will take place in January 2014 with the U.S. teams at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the European teams at ESA´s ESTEC Space Research and Technology Center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
Join the game
The 2013 ESA High School Tournament registration is open to secondary-school students from ESA member states until September. Teams must consist of between three and ten students.
Find a mentor, register and start preparing your tactics!
June–September Registration, tutorials/free practice
September 7 Kickoff webcast live from MIT
September 9 Registration deadline
October 6 2D simulation competition deadline
October 27 3D simulation competition
December 1 Alliance submission deadline
December 15 Final submission deadline
Mid-January 2014 Final Event live from the International Space Station