Zero Gravity is a documentary following teacher Tanner Marcoida from the Campbell Middle School in San Jose as he enters a group of students into a competition to make an autonomous robot that will be used on the International Space Station (ISS).
None of the children have coded before, apparently it isn’t taught in school, which is surprising these days. The competition is tough, with rules to follow meaning teams can steal other teams items and robots have to be able to take items to an assembly zone.
The children have various passions, one professes to wanting to be a marine biologist when they’re older for example, get to meet astronauts and people from NASA.
The robots the children are working on are based on the training droid from Star Wars a New Hope, when Luke is training to use his Lightsaber, having to hit a floating robot.
The children have just four weeks to create the code, using software provided to them, a sort of graphical interface. This code is then submitted and simulations run to find the winning team, that teams code will then be sent to the IIS.
Director Thomas Verrette has expanded on his 2017 short of the same name to create this feature length documentary and some immediate kudos must go to his use of visuals which are stunning.
No doubt provided by NASA they still take your breath away and the use of them to punctuate the back story of the children and the coding elements is well done.
At the end of the day this is a documentary about coding robots, and contrary to what movies will have you believe coding is pretty dull. Verrette has some work to do to make it seem interesting and he does a decent job.
The documentary is filled with the children’s back stories and Marcoida’s back story too. This makes the whole thing feel very wholesome and family friendly and the attitude of the children is wonderful to see.