The Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge 2010
In Fall 2010 the first Zero Robotics nationwide tournament for high school students was conducted as a limited pilot program. 80 letters of intent and 48 full applications were received, out of which 24 pilot participant teams were selected from across 19 US states. The students programmed directly on C via a web-based Integrated Development Environment that included the SPHERES simulator, access to online tutorials, and the 2010 game rules and API. The simulation enabled them to race their AI players against standard AI players. The website also provided an online technical support system and forums where they could discuss strategies both internally and with other teams.
During the "tutorial" phase, teams were encouraged to form sub-teams, so that they could compete against each other and form better strategies. This also allowed increased individual participation by students in large groups. A round robin competition was conducted among all the teams. They were then able to review the competition results and replay matches in order to plan changes to their strategies.
The ground competition took place at the MIT Flat Floor facility. The event was webcast live to all remote participants. After the ground competition, the 10 winning teams had approximately one week to produce their final strategy and finish their program before it was sent to NASA. The ISS finals took place on 16th December. The competition was broadcast live to MIT via special audio and video feed and the event was subsequently webcast live to remote participants. The event took place at an MIT auditorium where 9 of the 10 finalist teams were present.
Feedback surveys conducted after the ZR 2010 event show participation of over 200 high school students from 24 schools, each of which had 3 or more local mentors (teachers or volunteers) to technically support them through the competition. Of the students, 41% were underrepresented minorities (African American, Latino, Asian, others), 22% came from low income families, 4% had disabilities, 13% were English as Second Language students, and 16% were female. Over 100 participants (mentors and students) attended the ISS Finals event at MIT, traveling from as far as Utah, and the live webcast of the event recorded over 150 connections active throughout the whole event.
The following links will guide you through our 2010 tournament and how the high school participants performed while solving the above challenge: