Skip to main content
Study area_

Zero Robotics

Control robots aboard the International Space Station

Zero Robotics is a free international robotics programming competition offering high-school students the chance to control SPHERE robots in space.

Zero Robotics, led in Australia by the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering, is one of the world’s biggest computer programming competitions. 

It challenges participants to test their coding skills on NASA robots known as SPHERES (Synchronised, Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites) aboard the International Space Station. Teams from high schools around the world program the SPHERES to solve challenges.

Our program

The University is supporting the program to encourage further uptake of STEM subjects and inspire students to explore the exciting range of STEM study and career opportunities.

Participation in the competition is free for all interested high schools allowing students to gain valuable experience in coding at no cost.

High schools across the country will be provided mentoring and training either through a virtual or in-person delivery model (depending on location).

Students also learn the mathematics and physics behind the motion of the SPHERES robot and develop strategies for successful game play within the game premise.

Participants need to work as a team, delegate tasks, communicate effectively and be well organised. These are valuable skills they can apply to their schoolwork and that will be invaluable in any further studies beyond high school.

For more information about how your high school may be able to participate in Zero Robotics, please email

Zero Robotics 2018/19 schedule

  • Preliminary competition

    Term 1
    School Registration

    Term 2
    School Registration deadline - 10 May

    Australian preliminary competition

  • International competition

    Mid-September (Term 3)
    International competition launch

    September (Term 3)
    1st International deadline

    October (Term 3)
    2nd International deadline

    Early November (Term 4)
    Form alliances

    Early December (Term 4)
    3rd International deadline

  • International Space Station finals

    Late December (Term 4)
    ISS code submission

    January 2019
    ISS live finals event at University of Sydney

The Zero Robotics Competition 2018 contains a three-round (Australia only) preliminary competition and a four-phase international competition.

The Preliminary Competition is based on the SpySPHERES game and gives students the chance to compete against each other in three separate round robin competitions over three weeks. This is designed to give them the chance to develop their coding skills, learn how to work together as a team and begin to understand the tactical side of the game.

The International Competition will be announced in early September with students invited to a workshop at the University of Sydney to extend the skills that they learned during the preliminary competition. The first phase of the competition is a simulation round in 2D. To pass this round students must produce working code capable of scoring points against a stock opponent. Successful teams will enter phase 2, which is a worldwide 3D competition which will see some teams eliminated from the competition. However, there will be a concurrent ‘virtual finals’ competition, giving teams a second chance to reach the ISS.

The third phase of the competition is the alliance phase. Successful teams will be able to partner with two other teams from around the world to form alliances. These alliances will collaborate on a single piece of code, and compete in an elimination Semi Final Competition.

Finally, the best teams have their code run on the real SPHERES aboard the International Space Station. This event will be live streamed to MIT, an ESA site and the University of Sydney.

9/1/2018: Championship Event details

Join us to witness our five Australian high school finalists as they battle other teams from around the world for the title of Zero Robotics Champion!

Cheer on Mosman High School, Sydney Boys High School, Gosford High School, Sydney Technical High School and James Ruse Agricultural High School at The Abercrombie Business School on Thursday 11 January and witness first-hand how their code fairs on the International Space Station (ISS).

Guests will also have the opportunity to engage in a range of interactive displays and interesting activities, and hear from some eminent space industry speakers including Greg Chamitoff (Astronaut), Andrea Boyd (Flight Operations), Patrick Newman (Ion Rockets) and Kerrie Dougherty (Space History). The night will be MC'd by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki AM and refreshments will be provided throughout the event.

Date: Thursday 11 January
Time: 9pm-5am (overnight)
Venue: The Abercrombie Business School, The University of Sydney

15/9/2017: Congratulations L337 - Emanuel College

After a long wait we have our round 3 results. The deciding match between Emanuel and TIGsonauts was a tight one, with Emanuel ahead, but totally out of a fuel and drifting uncontrollably. They managed to pull through, timing it almost perfectly, and getting saved by the bell.

We hope all teams feel prepared for the International Competition and look forward to seeing your code!

4/9/2017: Preliminary competition final submission

The final submission for the preliminary competition is due Friday September 8th at 5pm AEST. This will be the final opportunity for students to test their technical and tactical skills before the international competition begins.

28/8/2017: Round 1 results

The first results are in and a huge congratulations goes out to the 30 schools that were able to submit working code!

Our podium placing schools this round were:
1. NBSC Manley - We’d do it in binary if we could remember it
2. Sydney Boys High School – One Robotics
3. Mosman High School – Talk Nerdy to Me

Teams can look up the full results including game simulations on the Zero Robotics website.

Australian Preliminary Competition 2017

We’d like to extend a warm welcome to all the teams who have signed up for the preliminary competition. We have a record number of Australian students registered this year and hopefully we can achieve some great results!


Five teams from five New South Wales high schools beat out more than 200 schools from around the world to make it to the finals event.

Congratulations to the following teams for their performance in the 2017/18 ISS Finals:

  • Gosford High School
  • James Ruse Agricultural High School - First place in the Zero Robotics Virtual Championship
  • Mosman High School
  • Sydney Boys High School - Semi-finalists
  • Sydney Technical High School - Semi-finalists

For a full wrap up on the event, head to the news story.


Five Australian high schools made it through to the Zero Robotics Championship Event and were able to program robots in space.

We had some incredible results, with three of our teams coming equal second and third overall!

Congratulations to all five Australian teams in the Zero Robotics ISS Finals 2016/17:

  • North Sydney Boys High School (FlyingFalconsQuarkCharmCode:Space) – 2nd place
  • Gosford High School (CosmicSparTech) – 3rd place (equal)
  • Barker College (Joined Unique International Coding Experts, JUICE) – 2nd place
  • Fort Street High School (Wormhole) – Competitor
  • James Ruse Agricultural High School (BACON–Cranberry Pie) – Competitor

The inaugural Australian finals event was held on Monday 25 January 2016. Normanhurst Boys’ High School competed with teams in their alliance from Germany and Romania.