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California youth compete at NASA Ames to “save the Earth” in UC Davis STEM program

By Karen Nikos-Rose on August 15, 2014 in

WHAT: Dozens of middle school youth, spanning from San Francisco to Gilroy, will link up with a live broadcast from the International Space Station in the finals of the only national robotics competition that takes place in space. Teams have written computer code to direct volleyball-sized flying robots to save the planet from a comet on a collision course with Earth.

The competition is the culmination of a monthlong summer learning opportunity coordinated by the California After School Network at the University of California, Davis, School of Education.

The competition builds lifelong skills, interest, and increased awareness of career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,  or STEM, for the underserved youth that participate.

WHERE: Ballroom of the NASA Ames Conference Center (Building 3) in the NASA Research Park in Moffett Field, California 94035.

WHEN: 7 a.m. to noon Friday, Aug. 15 (Competition broadcast from 7:45 – 10:45)


  • Middle school youth from underserved schools in Bay Area cities of San Francisco and Gilroy, and the Silicon Valley
  • NASA Ames engineers
  • UC Davis School of Education staff and partners

BACKGROUND: The first competition was held in 2009 in a partnership of MIT Space Systems Laboratory, NASA and other organizations striving to encourage STEM education for middle school students. The first competitions were held in a few pilot cities. Now, the competition has broadened to seven states and the District of Columbia. This is the second year California has engaged in the competition through NASA Ames and UC Davis.
This summer, middle school youth were challenged to write computer code to control volleyball-sized flying robots called SPHERES, or “Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites.” NASA and MIT are testing the SPHERES aboard the space station to do important tasks in space. Astronauts working on the space station will administer the competition in partnership with the director of MIT’s Space Systems Laboratory.

The California students are participating in a program through the California Afterschool Network, located at UC Davis School of Education in the Center for Community School Partnerships ,which serves as the fiscal agent and convener for the network.
VISUALS: Students will interact with NASA scientists and engineers by video as they compete to have the winning program.

DIRECTIONS AND PARKING: Ballroom of the NASA Ames Conference Center (Building 3) in the NASA Research Park in Moffett Field, California 94035. To reach Ames, take U.S. Highway 101 to the Moffett Field, NASA Parkway exit and drive east on Moffett Boulevard toward the main gate. No visitor badges are required for entry into the NRP, but visitors will be required to show photo identification at main gate to enter.

Media contact(s)

Karen Nikos-Rose, Research news (emphasis: arts, humanities and social sciences), 530-219-5472,

Jeff Davis, UC Davis program director, (530) 219-7006

Rachel Hoover, (650) 604-0643,

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