By Jessica Woltjen, Outreach Manager
What do you get when you combine stickers, skittles, a helicopter, funny hats and robots? A Zero Robotics field day for middle school students. On June 15th, students from six metro Atlanta summer programs traveled to Georgia Tech for a hands-on, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field day. Close to a hundred students participated in tours of robotics labs, watched a helicopter flight demo, and strategized for the upcoming Zero Robotics competition. Zero Robotics is an exciting 5-week summer program that introduces middle school students to computer programming, robotics, and space engineering, all while giving them hands-on-experience coding programming Synchronized Position Held, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) –– bowling-ball sized spherical satellites used inside the International Space Station.
For the third year, GSAN has collaborated with national and state partners to bring this hands-on, experiential learning opportunity to Georgia’s young people. Each year the “mission” to the student changes and over the course of this summer, students get to learn how to program these SPHERES and code them to do things like take pictures of asteroids and upload them back to Earth. All of this builds up to a tournament at the end of the five-week program, where each team’s SPHERE satellite will “battle” for a spot to operate on the International Space Station. All programs will travel back to Georgia Tech in August to watch the live competition, interact with astronauts, and hear from different STEM professionals about their careers.
Since it’s start in Massachusetts five years ago, the program has expanded to locations around the country, including Alabama, California, Colorado, D.C. Metro/Maryland, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and West Virginia. GSAN partners with Georgia Tech and the Georgia Space Grant Consortium to host the Field Day.
Through Zero Robotics and similar programs, Georgia’s youth are being inspired to become the next generation of innovators.