Imagine two spheres; they look like something out of Jedi training from Star Wars, and they are rampaging about battling each other inside the International Space Station under the control of teenagers. Funnily enough that’s not quite how Zero Robotics describes their competition – but, with a bit of poetic licence, that’s what it comes down to.
The initial stages of the Zero Robotics competition are, to save the sanity of the astronauts if nothing else, run in simulated environments. Each involves a team of high school students programming their sphere to navigate a three-dimensional environment more effectively than their opposition. Each round is a head-to-head competition with tasks such as taking photos of the other sphere and collecting power while moving in and out of dark spaces. It would be very clever stuff in any context; but when you add in the knowledge the ultimate goal is to be controlling live spheres on the Space Station – that’s quite an incentive.
Fifty high schools are competing in the Australian-only preliminary competition under the auspices of Sydney University. Teams that do well will then be invited to join the international Zero Robotics High School Tournament that begins later this month.
This is a fabulous STEM activity combining coding, maths, and physics in one exciting package and an almost unique opportunity for Australian high school students. We may be one of the few developed countries in the world without a space agency, but if it’s a sport involving a ball you can assume Australia will be there! Seriously, it’s fantastic that Australian students have the opportunity to participate in Zero Robotics and kudos to Sydney Uni for making it happen.
Image: NASA / MIT.