The European Space Agency and MIT is setting up a tournament where students can earn points by controlling the movement of volleyball-sized spheres located inside the International Space Station.
The SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) can move around the ISS using 12 jets powered by compressed gas. Each of them have their own power, propulsion, and navigation. But in order to make them move in the exact way needed, students will have to pre-program each of them with the instructions required to fulfil a specific goal.
Secondary-school students can prepare for the Zero Robotics Competition by testing their codes in online simulations. The best algorithms will propel the competitor to the finals, when they'll get to see the SPHERES run their commands live from space. Each competitor will be put into a three-team alliance from different European countries.
Registration for U.S. high school students can be found here.
The final event will take place in January 2014 with the U.S. teams at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the European teams at ESA's ESTEC Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
More at ESA.