El Segundo High School Zero Robotics Team Wins MIT’s Zero Robotics Virtual Challenge

The ESHS Zero Robotics Team, know as the Space Eagles, displayed their coding prowess through a simulated mission from NASA to capture photographs of a competitor satellite while managing a limited store of energy and avoiding having their own satellite’s photo snatched by the competitor. The competition finals video may be viewed at MIT’s website: http://zerorobotics.mit.edu

The ESHS Space Eagles competed in an alliance with the Palo Alto High School Team Paly Robotics and the IIS Pacinotti-Archimede High School (Rome, Italy) Team ZiRconiuM. The alliance's name is ZiRconiuM_Paly_Eagles. Members of the ESHS Space Eagles are Victoria Chu, Ari Berkowicz, Ian Hurd, Jakub Koziol, Adrian Osorio, Henry Smith, and Luke St. Regis.

The ESHS Zero Robotics Team is coached by Jennifer Cho and Steve Lubs, math and engineering teachers, and the team is mentored by Ronald Chu, an IT specialist with the County of Los Angeles who volunteers his time to work with the students. Cho has received recognition for her significant contributions to robotics, STEM, mathematics, as well as inspiring female students to enter the field of engineering.

“Zero Robotics was definitely one of the most exciting experiences during my four years of high school,” said Victoria Chu, ESHS senior and Zero Robotics Team captain. “It really helped me apply and understand vectors and c++ programming more than in a classroom setting. Competing in the ISS virtual finals at MIT was even more amazing. Being able to see the code we've written uploaded to and run on a real space robot, is truly inspiring. It demonstrates the versatility of the skills we learn in the classroom translated to real life situations.”

The annual competition enables high school students to program small robots for flight aboard the International Space Station. The robots, called SPHERES, were originally conceived and built by students in MIT’s Space Systems Laboratory. These robots are roughly the size and shape of a basketball and run on compressed gas. They can be programmed to spin, revolve, hover and navigate through the air. Researchers use SPHERES to test maneuvers for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking. They fly inside the station's cabin autonomously, but under the supervision of an astronaut. Each is self-contained with power, propulsion, computing, and navigation equipment. 

“The Zero Robotics competition provides students with an opportunity to apply what they have learned in physics, advanced mathematics, and computer programming to solve challenging problems in space with zero gravity, said Ronald Chu. “It also enables high school students worldwide to collaborate through international alliances and build a solution together while overcoming language, culture, and time zone differences.”

The Zero Robotics Competition is sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), European Space Agency, and the University of Sydney, Australia. The competition is organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Space Systems Laboratory in partnership with the Innovation Learning Center and Aurora Flight Sciences. More information about the MIT Zero Robotics Competition may be found at: http://www.zerorobotics.mit.edu.


About the El Segundo Unified School District

The El Segundo Unified School District (ESUSD) was established in 1912 to serve all of the residents living in the City of El Segundo and covers the western part of the city. ESUSD consists of six schools including the Eagle’s Nest Preschool, Richmond Street and Center Street Elementary Schools, El Segundo Middle School, El Segundo High School and the Arena/Virtual High School, as well as partnerships with the South Bay Adult School and California Regional Occupational Center (SoCal ROC).