The Massachusetts Institute of Technology played host to over 200 high-school students competing in the third annual NASA-sponsored Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge.
Two teams of students — one US-based and one European team — earned bragging rights as the winners of the SPHERES Challenge, which tasked them with programming a group of miniature satellites that are currently in orbit aboard the International Space Station. Alliance Rocket from the United States and Alliance CyberAvo from Europe were named the winners. Both winning efforts were in turn made up of three individual teams:
- Alliance Rocket comprised Team Rocket, River Hill High School, Clarksville, MD; Storming Robots, Branchburg, NJ; and SPHEREZ of Influence, Rockledge High School/Brevard County, FL. (Storming Robots was the current defending champion from the previous Challenge.)
- Alliance CyberAvo consisted of CyberAvo, I.T.I.S., Amedeo Avogrado, Turin, Italy; Ultima, Kaethe Kollwitz Oberschule, Berlin, Germany; and Lazy, Heinrich Hertz Gymnasium, Berlin, Germany.
Astronauts Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers, who currently live aboard the International Space Station, presided over the event and gathered data from the student-controlled SPHERES flight programs after each phase of the competition.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was effusive in his praise of the budding scientists/engineers. “It is just amazing to me what these high school students have accomplished,” he said. “To program a robotic spacecraft with the precision of a NASA flight controller is quite a feat, but to have that ability, talent and discipline at such a young age is remarkable. Our future is in good hands.”