WASHINGTON -- NASA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass., have selected 24 high schools to participate in a new science, technology, engineering, and math education program. The teams will design software to program small satellites aboard the International Space Station.
The Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, and Reorient Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, are three volley ball-sized spherical satellites that fly inside the space station’s cabin to test advanced maneuvers for spacecraft, like formation flying and autonomous rendezvous and docking. Each contains its own power, propulsion, computing, and navigation equipment.
The selections are part of the Zero-Robotics investigation, which is run by MIT and designed to inspire future scientists and engineers. Students write their own algorithms to solve a problem important to future missions. This year’s pilot program, "HelioSPHERES," allows selected high schools to compete against each other and helps students build critical engineering skills, such as problem solving, design thought process, operations training, teamwork and presentation skills.
The competition was open to all accredited high schools in the United States and attracted 48 applications. The 24 high schools are from 19 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
|Mesa Acad. for Advanced Studies/Mesa School District||AZ|
|Bellarmine College Preparatory||CA|
|Jame Monroe High School Engineering and Design Academy||CA|
|Warren Tech / Jeffco Schools||CO|
|John A. Ferguson Sr. High/Miami-Dade County Public Schools||FL|
|Naples High School||FL|
|Columbus High School / Muscogee County||GA|
|Boundary County School District 101||ID|
|Post Falls High School||ID|
|Northeast Magnet HS USD259||KS|
|Tri County Regional Vocational Technical High School||MA|
|Falmouth High School / Falmouth Maine||ME|
|Academy / Omaha||NE|
|Stuyvesant High School||NY|
|Upper St. Clair School District||PA|
|Friendswood High School||TX|
|Cyprus High School/ Granite School District||UT|
|Charlottesville High School||VA|
|Prince William County School System||VA|
|Kamiak High School||WA|
The 24 teams will compete in elimination rounds against each other using online simulations and ground-based testing at MIT. The software of the top 10 winners will be sent to the station, and an astronaut aboard the orbiting laboratory will program the SPHERES satellites to run the students' tests.
MIT's Space Systems Laboratory developed the SPHERES program to provide the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, NASA and other researchers with a long-term test bed for validating technologies critical to the operation of future satellites, docking missions and satellite autonomous maneuvers.
SPHERES have been used by many organizations, including other government agencies and graduate student research groups, since the program began in 2006. The satellites provide opportunities to test a wide range of hardware and software at an affordable cost.
For additional information on NASA and MIT's Zero-Robotics program, visit:
For more information on the Zero-Robotics "HelioSPHERES" competition, selection process, and upcoming activities, visit: