They’ve done it again.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV Zero Robotics team, for the third consecutive year took first place in the state at the final International Space Station (ISS) competition held at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Eight Club members in grades 6th-9th operated robotic satellites aboard the ISS, using programs they wrote in preparation for the event. The Club members watched the action via live downlink from the space station with anticipation, as astronauts supervised the satellites during the ISS Finals.

The finals event followed five weeks of online simulation competitions, during which the Club members, under the leadership of their mentor Mike Acevedo, collaborated and wrote the best computer programs to run on the SPHERES aboard the space station.

Club members along with hundreds of other Texas youth travelled to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, to watch their programs tested aboard the space station live. The event was broadcast live over NASA TV with 17 different locations across the United States and Russia viewing. Aboard the space station, astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold operated the satellites using the students' code.

"ISS Zero Robotics is a fabulous program that opens students' eyes to new possibilities, inspires their creativity and curiosity, and gives them new perspectives on the world and their futures," said Sabrina Walker Hernandez, CEO, for Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV.

Zero Robotics is a programming competition where students are presented with a challenge, "the game." Two teams compete at a time to achieve the best performance in the game. The teams write all of their code via the Zero Robotics website, which has a high-fidelity simulation of the SPHERES. Using the same website the students see simulated results of their code performance. The competition closely resembles the way software is written for spacecraft, requiring the students to write code that controls the satellite position and pointing, communicates with other satellites, and interprets its sensors to determine what to do next. All of these tasks are done autonomously -- once the students write their code, they cannot modify it for that "run;" in the case of the ISS Finals, the code cannot be changed, just like in real spacecraft.


Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV’s winning Zero Robotics team pictured with Bonnie Dunbar, PhD, NAE, RESCorr and Former Astronaut during the International Space Station (ISS) competition hosted by the Texas A&M University Aerospace Technology Research and Operations Department at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.