What is Zero?

Zero Robotics is a programming competition, hosted by MIT in collaboration with NASA, in which teams program robots that function in the zero gravity environment of the International Space Station.  Plasma was selected as one of 20 teams from over 200 applicants from across the nation to participate in Zero’s inaugural year.

Conveniently, the Zero robotics season runs during the FRC off-season, during first semester.

What does the competition involve?

Teams compete by programming a SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) satellite to achieve the year’s game objectives while competing or collaborating with other teams.  These satellites try to collect the most points during matches to read finals.  Due to the short duration of the game teams have to carefully plan and hold efficiency over all other objectives.  The programs are autonomous – students do not control the satellites during the game.   The tournament progresses in phases from 2D to 3D.  For the finals, the top eight alliances of three robots each submit code which will be uploaded to SPHERES that will run in the ISS (International Space Station) in January (usually) of the competition season. NASA astronauts conduct this part of the competition while the final teams watch from a viewing station at MIT.

One of the most interesting parts of the competition is that every scenario that is assigned to teams has a “real-life” application. NASA actually keeps record of the code, in case they need to use it as a reference/ a starting point for a product!