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UAE: Khalifa University wins Zero Robot Programming Challenge – News

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Astronaut Sultan Alneyadi oversees challenge from ISS


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published: Saturday, June 24, 2023 at 5:02 pm

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) announced on Saturday that Khalifa University has won first place in the UAE Zero Robot Programming Challenge (UAE ZRPC).

Khalifa University demonstrated remarkable control of the Astrobee in microgravity, and their impressive coding skills led them to victory.

The second and third places were won by the second and first teams from UAE University respectively.

The UAE Code Zero Robot Challenge is a unique programming competition held aboard the International Space Station (ISS) involving UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi. Emirates ZRPC was developed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and NASA.

This challenge provides an excellent opportunity for college students to showcase and develop their programming and critical thinking skills. They achieved this by programming the free-flying robot Astrobee to write the Arabic alphabet in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station.

“Engaging students in STEM fields is critical to realizing the UAE’s vision of a science and technology-rich future. With Sudan’s mission aboard the International Space Station, we have opened a new chapter in our education outreach programme. The innovators and explorers of the future, pushing the UAE to the forefront of global space exploration,” said Salem Humaid AlMarri, Director General of MBRSC.

On May 16, AlNeyadi assisted with a rehearsal for the UAE’s Zero Robots Programming Challenge aboard the International Space Station. During rehearsals, Astrobee robots are used to verify aspects and programming of the final event. The teams then submitted their final code on May 23. On Friday, the final run in orbit organized a live event at MBRSC, where participating teams had the opportunity to witness the challenge live.

challenge format

AlNeyadi assisted in the execution of the final round of the UAE Zero Robot Programming Challenge. In this competition, teams programmed the Astrobee robot to spell out a 3-6-letter code for the flight crew. These codes are required in a fictional scenario in which two astronauts face technical problems with radio communications and need to communicate and enter a code to restart the electrical system.

A total of 6 teams participated in this challenge, with a total of 31 students representing five well-known universities. Each team was guided by a chief professor and a team leader. The participating teams include: American University of Dubai, Abu Dhabi Higher Institute of Technology, Khalifa University, Sharjah University, and two teams from the UAE University.

Over the course of several weeks, students undergo intensive training in preparation for a final code submission. During the initial rounds of ZRPC in the UAE, the team utilized online simulations to test their code and closely observe the Astrobee’s movements. That code is then uploaded to Astrobee, where their hard work comes to life when the robot performs the programmed tasks in space. This challenge promotes creative thinking, technical skills, and a keen understanding of practical applications of space programming.

The UAE Astronaut Program is one of the projects managed by MBRSC under the UAE National Space Program and funded by the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) ICT Fund, which aims to support research and development in the field of ICT in the UAE to promote the integration of the country into the global arena.

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