About Zero Robotics

Zero Robotics is an innovative and inspiring program for middle school students (rising 6th-9th grades in the summer) and high school students (9th-12th grades in the fall) that is truly out of this world!

Zero Robotics is a free computer programming challenge designed to cultivate interest in Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) by giving middle and high school students unprecedented access to the International Space Station (ISS).

Students learn to control free-flying satellites known as Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) aboard the ISS, through computer programming and simulations. Finalists ultimately go head-to-head against teams from across the country (middle school) or world (high school), while astronauts referee the final competition live from space using the SPHERES. The SPHERES afford the perfect testing ground for this task because they provide a risk-tolerant environment for students to use ISS hardware, all while advancing space research through an annual challenge relevant to future space missions.

For all tournaments, participants:

  • Brainstorm strategies
  • Apply math and physics
  • Write computer programs
  • Observe results in simulation
  • Compete in online competitions

Zero Robotics challenges students with:

  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Computer programming
  • Strategy
  • Robotics and space engineering

All students need to participate in Zero Robotics is:

  • A team of 8-20 students (middle school) or 5-20 students (high school)
  • An adult leader
  • Access to the internet (laptops or desktops required, not tablets)

Texas Zero Robotics is brought to you by the following partners and sponsors:

TEES_ASTRO_Acronym_logo_2c             Texas Space Grant Consortium

At the national and international level, Zero Robotics is brought to you by the following partners and sponsors:

MIT      SSL Logo      AFS      ILC logo_circle      NorthropGrummanFoundation      casis-logo      ESA      NASA

Zero Robotics High School Tournament

In the Zero Robotics High School Tournament, students write computer programs at their high schools that control a satellite in space. The goal is to build critical engineering skills for students, such as problem solving, design thought process, operations training, and team work. Students simulate their program immediately and see the results in an online animation. Students have ample opportunities to test different strategies before submitting their code for a formal competition. All submissions to challenge other teams and to the competition are via the website. Students also have access to online tutorials and an MIT technical support system.

The tournament takes place throughout the fall semester and ends with the final competition live aboard the ISS in January with teams competing in alliances from around the world. It begins with simulations in phases from 2D to 3D, gradually increasing in difficulty. After elimination rounds, the finalists will see their code run in the SPHERES satellites aboard the International Space Station with live transmission from space. The finals take place simultaneously at MIT, at an European Space Agency (ESA) site in Europe, at the University of Sydney in Australia and are also webcast live to all participants so that remote viewing is possible.


To participate in the high school competition, you must create a team of 5 to 20 students ages 14-20 and find a primary mentor. Any accredited high-school (grades 9-12), Upper Secondary, or equivalent grade-school / pre-college level program, including home-schooling, can register a team of students.

For more information and to register your team, visit zerorobotics.mit.edu.

Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program

Take a peak inside the 2015 Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program at Indian Spring Middle School in Waco, Texas.

The Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program is a free five-week program designed to cultivate interest in STEM by giving rising 6th-9th grade students unprecedented access to the International Space Station (ISS).

To participate in the middle school competition, you must create a team of 8 to 20 students and find a primary mentor.

Teams can be associated with a public or private school or a community-based organization. Students from different schools and organizations can join together into one team. Teams comprising middle school students traditionally under-represented in STEM careers are particularly encouraged to apply.

Primary Mentors

One or two adults affiliated with the school/group will lead the team throughout the season. The mentors will provide space for team meetings, dedicated time for advising and will ensure sufficient programming support for the team.

Don’t know how to teach coding? Don’t worry! Zero Robotics offers a free curriculum, free training and ongoing live technical support from MIT and Texas A&M all summer.

Volunteer Mentors

We encourage all teams to look for 1-3 volunteers with strong programming skills among professionals from their community to supplement those provided by MIT and Texas A&M.

2018 Texas Middle School Application and Support

Texas A&M University’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and the ASTRO Center will provide a minimum of $500 financial assistance and college student mentors to all Texas teams competing in the 2018 Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program. In addition, Texas A&M will invite all Texas teams that submit code to the regional competition to join us at the Texas ISS Finals Event at either NASA’s Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX) or Texas A&M University (College Station, TX).

To participate in the Texas Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program, a primary mentor or other organization adult representative must complete the below application. Texas A&M will select up to 15 Texas teams to participate in the 2018 Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program.

Once completed, please submit your application via email, fax or U.S. postal mail.

Email: helen.reed@tamu.edu

Fax: 979.845.6051

Zero Robotics
Attn: Dr. Helen Reed
3141 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3141


2018 Middle School Team Application

Download the 2018 Texas Middle School Zero Robotics Flyer

2018 Middle School Important Dates

Application and Team Notification Deadlines

Application Deadline
Team Selection Notification
Friday, April 13, 2018 Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Primary Leader Training Sessions

Part1 Part 2
Saturday, June 9, 2018 Friday, June 15, 2018
At Texas A&M University On Your Own

Summer Program Schedule

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Week 5 ISS Finals
July 9-13, 2018 July 16-20, 2018 July 23-27, 2018 July 30 – August 3, 2018 August 6-10, 2018 Tentatively Set for August 10, 2018
Intro to Zero Robotics and Visit from Texas A&M Engineering Student Mentor Local Industry Field Trip (Monday-Wednesday); Practice Code Deadline – Friday, July 20, 2018 Regional Code Deadline – Friday, July 27, 2018 ISS Code Deadline – Thursday, August 2, 2018 Final Week of Program Official Date and Time TBA


Dr. Helen Reed
Texas Zero Robotics Director
Aerospace Engineering Faculty

Daniel Mullen
Texas Zero Robotics Lead Student Mentor
Graduate Student, Aerospace Engineering

Get in touch with the national organizers:

Zero Robotics

2014 Texas A&M Zero Robotics Team with Astronaut and Former Student Mike Fossum ’80

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