Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County Wins Robotics National Competition

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Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County Wins
Zero Robotics National Competition at the Kennedy Space Center

B/E Aerospace joins Boys & Girls Clubs as the sponsor for the national competition.

West Palm Beach, FL – August 15, 2016 – The Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County was proclaimed the National Champion for the Zero Robotics National Competition for Middle Schools. The competition took place on August 12 at the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, FL. The team from the Marjorie S. Fisher Boys & Girls Club entered the competition as the state champion, accompanied by The Naoma Donnelley Haggin Club of Delray Beach who had placed third, as their consulting team. A total of 12 teams across the country competed for the national title and Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County was the only Boys & Girls Clubs to enter this competition in the entire state of Florida.  The organization had a total of four teams enter the competition with two of the teams placing in the top three at the state level.

Club members competed with students from 12 other teams from across the country, as well as Russia, developing computer code to guide SPHERES robots that flew aboard the space station in real time vying for the national award. Each team competed against the MIT robot. Participants also had the opportunity to hear renowned speakers via satellite, including Peter Sooy from the NASA Goddard Robotics Lab, astronauts aboard the space station and Roya Maher, senior staffer with the NASA IV&V Program and president of A3L Federal Works. Astronauts Jeffrey Williams, Oleg Skripochka and Gregory Johnson served as referees for the competition. The competition began at 10:15 A.M.  and each state took turn with code to control SPHERE against the MIT SPHERE.  Florida was the first team to compete and the students got to watch LIVE the Astronauts setup and run the software on the SPHERES in the International Space Station.

A total of 30 Club members traveled to the Kennedy Space Center on August 12th sponsored by B/E Aerospace. The manufacturer of aircraft cabin interior products with headquarters in Palm Beach County, partnered with The Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County and provided the financial support needed for Club members to be able to travel to Titusville, FL. “Without the support and generosity of B/E Aerospace this trip would not have been possible,” said Dennis Young, Director of Technology Programs for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County. Young is the coach for all four of the teams. “The kids have worked so hard on this project and we are so proud of their hard work and dedication. We are very grateful to the partnership with B/E Aerospace and we appreciate their support. This is a learning experience the kids will never forget,” stated Young.

Zero Robotics is a robotics programming competition that allows middle-school and high school students to work in teams to code and control Synchronized, Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES).  The game/challenge is designed by MIT students and changes every year to reflect a current need/research area of NASA.  During the five-week program middle school students have worked to learn physics, mathematics, and computer programming through interactive activities and hands-on experience programming the SPHERES that will hopefully move around the International Space Station. Students spent much of the summer learning to write computer programs in languages such as C++ and formulating strategies for their SPHERES in anticipation of the final competition.

The competition started online where each team had to solve an annual challenge. After several phases of competing in the virtual world through a simulation, state champions competed in a live championship aboard the International Space Station. Middle school participants got to see the SPHERES operate in space via a live feed from the ISS while NASA astronauts provide real-time commentary.

Each year’s game is motivated by a problem of interest to NASA and MIT. Students create, edit, save, and simulate projects online. They use a graphical editor to write code, then simulate their programs immediately and see the results using a simulation. The programming interface and simulation are entirely web-based, so ZR does not require any software downloads or computer configuration. The system even allows teams to compete against themselves so that they can test different strategies before finalizing their competition submissions.

Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program is provided through a partnership between the MIT Space Systems Lab, the Innovation Learning Center, and Aurora Flight Sciences. The Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program is sponsored by NASA, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and the Northrup Grumman Foundation.

Zero Robotics seeks to inspire our next generation of great minds by allowing them unprecedented access to space at the middle school level. By making the benefits and resources of the International Space Station tangible to students, Zero Robotics hopes to cultivate an appreciation of science, technology, engineering and math through healthy, immersive, collaborative competition.

About the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County
Founded in 1971, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County is a not-for profit youth development organization dedicated to promoting the educational, vocational, health leadership and character of boys and girls in a safe, nurturing environment. The Clubs provide more than a safe, fun and constructive alternative to being home alone – they offer a variety of award-winning developmental programs to help youth build skills, self-esteem and values during critical periods of growth. The thirteen Boys & Girls Clubs throughout Palm Beach County serve more than 8,000 children ages 6-18. For more information, please visit  or call 561-683-3287. You can also follow Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County on social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook.


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