Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites-Zero-Robotics-Middle School Summer Program (SPHERES-Zero-Robotics-Middle School Summer Program) - 11.15.17

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites-Zero-Robotics-Middle School Summer Program (SPHERES-Zero-Robotics-Middle School Summer Program) is an innovative and inspiring program for middle school students that is truly out of this world! The five-week science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum introduces students to computer programming, robotics, and space engineering, and provides hands-on experience programming SPHERES. The program culminates in a tournament where winning teams’ SPHERES battle aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Alvar Saenz-Otero, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom:

Principal Investigator(s)
Alvar Saenz-Otero, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States
Jeffrey A. Hoffman, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States

Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
Information Pending

Developer(s)
Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, Cambridge, MA, United States
Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership, Boston, MA, United States
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States
Topcoder Inc., Glastonbury, CT, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2010 - September 2010; March 2011 - September 2011; March 2013 - September 2013; March 2014 - September 2014; March 2015 - September 2015

Expeditions Assigned
23/24,27/28,35/36,39/40,43/44

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites-Zero-Robotics-Middle School Summer Program (SPHERES-Zero-Robotics-Middle School Summer Program) is a five-week program designed to engage middle school students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through the Zero Robotics game.
  • Zero Robotics seeks to inspire the next generation of great minds by allowing them unprecedented access to space at the middle school level. By making the benefits and resources of the International Space Station (ISS) tangible to students, Zero Robotics hopes to cultivate an appreciation of STEM through healthy, immersive, collaborative competition.
  • Zero Robotics is sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and was previously sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Description

Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites-Zero-Robotics-Middle School Summer Program (SPHERES-Zero-Robotics-Middle School Summer Program) is a five-week program in which younger students learn to program through a graphical interface. 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 the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (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.
 

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Applications

Space Applications
SPHERES-Zero-Robotics-Middle School Summer Program builds critical engineering skills, including problem solving, the design thought process, operations training, and teamwork. It connects students with prominent scientists and encourages them to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and/or math. Student participants compete to win a technically challenging game by programming their strategies into the SPHERES. The program culminates in a tournament where winning teams’ SPHERES battle aboard the ISS. Middle school participants get to see the SPHERES operate in space via a live feed from the ISS while NASA astronauts provide real-time commentary.

Earth Applications
SPHERES-Zero-Robotics-Middle School is designed to engage middle school students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through the Zero Robotics game. The goal is to help students better understand this content by connecting it to something pretty exciting: space! Students learn about STEM careers so they can understand the many interesting opportunities for success that STEM fields offer.

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Operations

Operational Requirements and Protocols

Educators guide students through curriculum activities and tutorials which teach programming, math and physics. Students code and test game strategies in the MIT developed simulation then submit code to MIT for a practice competition. Teams modify code and submit final algorithm files to MIT for regional competitions. Regional winners work collaboratively with the rest of the teams in their region to develop final code for the ISS competition. For the ISS Finals, a test session with crew member that runs the code in space (live video of session to all teams- teams are invited to a selected location in each region to watch together.)
 
During the flight sessions there are three phases:  programming SPHERES, free-flying operations, and data retrieval. Programming the satellites involves uploading the algorithms for each specific session to the SPHERES laptop from the ground crew. The laptop is used to send the algorithms and commands to the satellites, and receive data and status reports from the satellites. The data is then downlinked to the ground crew for analysis. During free-flying operations, the satellites perform various maneuvers with one to three satellites operating simultaneously. Once the test session is complete, the data is downlinked to the ground, via the Operations Local Area Network (Ops LAN), for analysis by the SPHERES team. This analysis allows new and/or modified tests to be uplinked for use in the next test session.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

2010: Zero Robotics Summer of Innovation
Zero Robotics was one of six programs of the Massachusetts Space Grant Summer of Innovation 2010 award. Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership (MAP) received applications from 20 schools or summer learning programs.  Through a competitive application process 10 teams were selected, directly involving 200 middle school students and 20 teachers/mentors from across the state. The 2010 Summer of Innovation Zero Robotics followed a five-week schedule:  introduction to space, programming, live-game event, ground competition event, and ISS event. All 10 teams participated in the ISS finals refereed by crew member Shannon Walker. They were present at MIT to view the live telecast of the Finals test session from the ISS. Congratulations to the winning team:  Malden YMCA, Malden MA

All participating teams (not listed in rank order)
• Dorchestor Boys and Girls Club, Dorchester MA
• Winthrop Middle School, Winthrop, MA
• Timilty Middle School, Roxbury MA
• Yawkey Boys and Girls Club, Roxbury MA
• East End House, Cambridge MA
• Salem Cyberspace, Salem MA
• Malden YMCA, Malden MA- WINNER
• Ford School, Lynn MA
• Lynn YMCA, Lynn MA
• Lewis Latimer Society, Chelsea MA

2011:  Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program 2011
Five schools/community based organizations from Massachusetts participated. MIT students mentor teams to write programs using a text-based editor.  All five teams participated in the ISS finals and were present at MIT to view the live telecast of the Finals test session from the ISS refereed by crew member Ronald J. Garan. Congratulations to the winning team from Winthrop Middle School, Winthrop, MA.

All participating teams (not listed in rank order)
• Winthrop Middle School, Winthrop MA - WINNER
• James P. Timilty Middle School, Roxbury MA
• Salem CyberSpace, Salem MA
• East End House, Cambridge MA
• Robert L. Ford School, Lynn MA

2012:  ZR Curriculum Development (No MS competition this year)
In order to expand the Zero Robotics program, MIT worked with the Education Development Center during the summer of 2012 to create a free, downloadable and easy to use curriculum. The full curriculum was designed to support both in-school and out-of-school educators working in summer programs with middle school students to run the Zero Robotics program and effectively lead students in the fundamentals of computer coding and programming with a graphical interface in an informal environment.

“Since the program staff was unfamiliar with computer programming, we found the Zero Robotics Curriculum Guide to be very useful and helpful.”   – Program Coordinator, East End House

2013:  RetroSPHERES
Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program 2013 

During the summer of 2013 Zero Robotics piloted the curriculum developed in 2012 nationally in partnership with five Statewide Afterschool Networks representing Massachusetts, California, Florida, Georgia, and Idaho. These Networks worked with MIT to identify summer learning programs in their respective states, gather data and host professional development and competition events.  Additionally, each network gathered feedback from educators and students on the curriculum that informed edits for the 2.0 Summer 2014 edition.

Game premise:  Students programmed robotic satellites to remove virtual space debris.  

Teams gathered at locations in each of their regions to view the live telecast of the Finals test session from ISS refereed by crew members Karen Nyberg and Chris Cassidy.  Congratulations to the winning region, Florida, represented by St. Lucie Public School DIstrict (Southern Oaks Middle School, Port St Lucie, FL) supported by Florida's 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program.

2014:  CosmoSPHERES
Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program 2014 

This year the Middle School Summer Program expanded to selected middle-school aged teams in nine states including Alabama, California, Maryland/DC Metro Area, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Texas. 

Game premise:  Students programmed robotic satellites to deflect virtual in-coming comets away from Earth. 

Teams gathered at locations in each of their regions to view the live telecast of the Finals test session from ISS refereed by crew members Steven Swanson and Reid Wiseman.  Congratulations to the winning region, Maryland/DC, represented by the Empower Wicomico team from Salisbury, MD!

2015:  CoronaSPHERES
Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program 2015

This year the Middle School Summer Program expanded to 57 selected middle-school aged teams in 11 states including Alabama, California, Colorado, Maryland/DC Metro Area, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Oregon, Texas and West Virginia. 

Game premise:  Use a robotic satellite to take pictures of “points of interest” on an asteroid. Collect and upload as many new pictures as possible while avoiding effects of solar flares. 

Teams gathered at locations in each of their regions to view the live telecast of the Finals test session from ISS refereed by crew members Oleg Kononenko, Scott Kelly, Kimiya Yui.  Congratulations to the winning region, Massachusetts, represented by Malden YMCA  from  Malden, MA!

2016:  SpySPHERES
Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program 2016 

This year the Middle School Summer Program expanded to 70 selected middle-school aged teams in 11 full participating states including Alabama, California, Maryland/DC Metro Area, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Oregon, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and some pilot teams from Connecticut, Minnesota and Russia.

Game premise:  Recycle defunct satellite parts in LEO and spy on opponents while managing use of solar energy during light and eclipse periods. 

Teams gathered at locations in each of their regions to view the live telecast of the Finals test session from ISS refereed by crew members Jeffrey Williams and Oleg Skripochka.  Congratulations to the winning region, Florida, represented by The Geek Republic ¬ from Bok Academy, Lake Wales, FL!

 

 

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Results Publications

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

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Related Websites
Zero Robotics in Maryland
MIT AeroAstro News – October 2010
Zero Robotics

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Imagery

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The ten SPHERES Zero-Robotics student teams watching two views of the ISS competition live from MIT. Image courtesy of John Tylko from the Aurora Flight Science Corporation.

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The SPHERES Zero-Robotics Second place team from the James P. Timilty Middle School. Image courtesy of John Tylko from the Aurora Flight Science Corporation.

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