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First in a series — Bob Jones, Boeing pursuing Zero Robotics on International Space Station

Leann Martins had an excellent idea during her summer internship.

Bob Jones and Boeing are collaborating on Zero Robotics.

Martins, a senior in the engineering academy at Bob Jones High School, participated in a pilot internship program between The Boeing Company and Bob Jones High School.

She learned about Zero Robotics, which may lead Bob Jones students to write programming code for experiments abroad the International Space Station (ISS).

“We are working a partnership with Boeing to compete in the Zero Robotics competition this fall,” engineering teacher Jeremy Raper said. “It will be a collaboration with Boeing, Bob Jones Engineering For Tomorrow Academy and the Bob Jones Computer Science Team.”

Martins worked with mentor Amanda Rice at Marshall Space Flight Center. Rice works with the ISS payload integration team that manages the payload experiments sent to the space station.

“We searched for ways to encourage students at Bob Jones to become interested in the ISS and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) activities, while also strengthening the relationship between Bob Jones and Boeing,” Martins said.

During their search, Martins and Rice discovered Zero Robotics, a competition designed to promote STEM studies for middle and high school students. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA are funding Zero Robotics.

These organizations are using SPHERES robots (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) aboard the ISS.

High school students receive a challenge and “create and write their own code and algorithms in the C language and upload their resulting code to an online program that tests the code via simulation,” Martins said. Several challenges follow. Then, code from the top three finalists is uploaded to SPHERES for the final competition held live aboard the ISS.

The competition is heavily geared towards programming but also involves ground demonstrations, documentation and presentations by each team, Martins said.

Along with Raper, Martins enlisted help from Jennifer Rountree and Jessye Gaines, who teach engineering, advanced-placement computer science and several C programming classes and sponsor related clubs at Bob Jones.

For more information, visit zerorobotics.mit.edu.

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