UAE students invited to programme heroic space robots

UAE Space Agency is calling on students to join a competition that will see them controlling small robots used aboard the International Space Station

The Int-Ball is currently in use at the International Space Station. Courtesy Jaxa
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UAE students have been invited to take part in a challenge that allows them to programme robots to save the International Space Station from disastrous situations.

The Kibo Robot Programming Challenge (Kibo-RPC) is being held by Japan’s space agency, Jaxa, in collaboration with Nasa.

The UAE Space Agency and Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre made the challenge available to all students in the country too.

The competition requires students to come up with breakthrough programming for Jaxa’s free-flying camera robot, Int-ball, and Nasa’s free-flying robotic system, Astrobee, so they can solve emergencies that may arise on the ISS.

For this specific competition, the emergency scenario given to students is a meteor having crashed into the ISS, causing a life-threatening air leakage on the outpost.

Pupils will work in teams to create their own programme which allows Int-ball to support Astrobee as a camera drone in order to stop the leakage. They will use Jaxa’s online simulation environment to develop the programmes.

“Participants will have the chance to learn cutting-edge methodologies and to hone their skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through this programme,” the competition guidebook read.

“The KiboRPC will also expand international exchange by encouraging students to interact with other participants from around the world.”

The competition aims to promote the study of Stem subjects among young people.

“Engineering teaches us that a simulation can only approximate the real world. Thus, participants are expected to learn techniques for creating simulation programmes that perform well in the real world despite uncertainties and within margins of error,” the guidebook said.

“Students will learn the necessity of controlling and correcting positions and orientation of a free-flying robot and how to perform assigned tasks in the onboard environment through simulation trials.”

The Astrobee and Int-ball are functioning robots used on the ISS. UAE astronaut, Maj Hazza Al Mansouri, gave a presentation using the Int-ball onboard the station during his space mission last year.

Competition applications must be submitted by April 19.

The preliminary round will be hosted by UAE’s Space Agency in June. The winning teams will go on to the final round hosted at Jaxa’s Tsukuba Space Centre, with real-time connections to the ISS.

The final, expected to take place in September, will also be broadcasted worldwide.

More information on the competition is available online at UAE Space Agency's website.