CHS Science Club Reaches Semifinals in NASA, MIT Robotic Tournament

Nov. 20, 2013

The Charlottesville High School science group, Best All-around Club of Nerds (BACON), is competing in the Zero Robotics semifinals.

Sponsored by NASA and MIT, the Zero Robotics High School Tournament is one of the most challenging computer-programming competitions available to high schoolers.

By reaching the semifinals in this year's competition, BACON is currently ranked among the top twenty teams. In 2012, the CHS team placed second in the nation.

The Zero Robotics competition requires teams to write computer code to autonomously control a virtual robot in 3D space. The robot must perform a series of complicated tasks while also responding to the movements of a competitor robot. This year, the robot must navigate 3D space, detect and avoid debris, capture a laser pack, and use the laser as well as gravitational attraction to steer a comet through space.

CHS science teacher and team sponsor Matthew Shields notes, “Just developing a strategy for this competition, much less the computer code, kind of makes your brain hurt.”

For the semifinal phase, the remaining teams form alliances for virtual collaboration; BACON has joined forces with the Rock'n'Robots from Janesville, WI, and the C Students from Claremont, CA. When the semifinals conclude in December, in January, the best alliances will travel to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to see their code actually control a robot live on the International Space Station.

Since its establishment in 2010, BACON has traveled around the country to represent the community in the finals of several competitions sponsored by MIT and/or NASA.

The team was honored by the Charlottesville City Council in March 2011.

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