This is the second open-registration ZR tournament for all high school students and educators in the US and its territories. EU schools will be participating in a joint tournament hosted by the European Space Agency.

The official rules are listed here with more details about the tournament in the section below

Official Rules

The SPHERES Challenges are "Zero Robotics" tournaments that are held every Fall to open the world-class research facilities on the International Space Station (ISS) to high school students. Students will actually write programs at their High School that may 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. Ultimately we hope to inspire future scientists and engineers so that they will view working in space as "normal", and will grow up pushing the limits of engineering and space exploration.

The participants compete to win a technically challenging game by programming their strategies into the SPHERES satellites. The game is motivated by a challenging problem of interest to DARPA, NASA and MIT. The programs are "autonomous" - that is, the students cannot control the satellites during the test itself. The tournament progresses in phases from 2D to 3D, gradually increasing in difficulty. Astronauts run the final robotics competition on the ISS, act as referees, and interact with participating students via a live video broadcast in a large event at MIT, webcast live to all participants so that remote viewing is possible.

Student teams can create, edit, save and simulate projects online. They may use a graphical block diagram editor or a C editor to write code, then simulate their program immediately and see the results in a flash animation. MIT provides the simulation and C programming interfaces via the Zero Robotics website--no special software is required. The simulation also enables teams to compete against themselves, against pre-coded standard players and challenge other teams informally; students have ample opportunities to test different versions of their strategies before submitting their code for a formal competition. All submissions to challenge others and to the competition are via the website. Students also have access to online tutorials and an MIT technical support system.