Open season for European ISS robotics

Spheres robots
4 June 2012

A new robotic race has begun in Europe. Following a brilliant performance earlier this year, a squadron of miniature satellites will come to life again on the International Space Station (ISS), following commands of students.

Spheres − short for Synchronised Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites − are volleyball-sized satellites that have their own power, propulsion and navigation systems.

Last winter, 25 teams of secondary-school students from Europe operated the Spheres in a Zero-Robotics competition under the watchful eye of ESA astronaut André Kuipers.

Owing to the success of last year’s competition, it is now open to a larger number of European participants. The tournament this year will welcome up to 25 teams per ESA member state.

European students are invited to create programs to make the Spheres revolve, spin, move and hover. Volunteer mentors will help the youngsters to control the droids on the Space Station.

How to master the Spheres

Spheres finals 2012

To compete for the finest moves, mentors must register their teams on the Zero-Robotics website for the European 2012 competition before September. Please create an account first, then register for the European tournament.

On 9 September, the game and rules will be unveiled at an event at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. The event can be followed via a live webstream and questions posted to the organisers via Twitter.

Spheres on the Space Station

All tournaments are free of charge and open to upper secondary schools. Teachers and professionals are encouraged to work on the challenge together with the school teams.

Check the dates to submit code and play against other teams in simulation rounds to get the highest scores and reach the finals.

Finalists will participate in a special event to see the real Spheres responding to their commands on the Space Station in January 2013.

Competition information

Dates
9 September Kickoff webcast live from MIT
September–November Online simulation competitions
28 September 2D simulation competition deadline
12–14 October 2D ground demonstration
26 October 3D simulation competition
27 October Alliance formation event
14 December Final submission deadline

ESA’s 19 Member States are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

For further information, please contact:

Nigel Savage
Head of Education Unit
Directorate of Human Spaceflight and Operations
Email: nigel.savage@esa.int

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