On September 23, 2021, at 7pm ET, as part of the Boston Film Festival, the documentary Zero Gravity will have its Boston premiere in a screening at the MIT Media Lab; the film will then be available for digital screenings until September 26 via the Boston Film Festival.
Directed by Thomas Verrette, this multi-award winning documentary follows a cohort of students from Campbell Middle School—now the Campbell School of Innovation—near San Jose, California, as they compete in the 2017 Zero Robotics tournament. Sponsored by the Zero Robotics program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, these tournaments introduced some 20,000 students to programming with the SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites) platform for experiments on the International Space Station (ISS).
Although the SPHERES program retired from the ISS in 2019, and Zero Robotics took a short hiatus, the program will be re-launched in 2022, under the guidance of Danielle Wood, director of the Space Enabled research group and assistant professor at the MIT Media Lab and in the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Dr. Wood, who has been named as the new principal investigator (PI) for the Zero Robotics program at the request of Prof. David Miller and Dr. Alvar Saenz-Otero (program founders), will move forward with the NASA Astrobee robotic system as the program’s new in-space robotic platform. Additionally, she has won two grants from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space to work with its technology development and educational programs, and also collaborated with the Navajo Technical University in New Mexico and California State University, Long Beach to secure a $1.18 million grant from NASA to improve support to Native and Hispanic students participating in Zero Robotics over three years.
Dr. Wood is delighted to host the September 23 screening of Zero Gravity, which showcases the hard work of the students involved in the Zero Robotics tournament, and the inspiration, leadership, and dedication of their mentors and the space industry professionals involved in the program, from their teacher, Tanner Marcoida, to Zero Robotics founder Alvar Saenz-Otero, to astronauts Jack D. Fischer, Cady Coleman, and Steve Smith, who inspired students through their spaceflight experiences.