A New Opportunity for Your Students to Be Real Scientists on the International Space Station – (No We’re Not Sending Them into Orbit … Unless)
Posted by DrJeff on November 23rd, 2011
Copyright 2011 | About this blog
Click on the image and feel the magic. Astronaut Rick Mastracchio on EVA outside the International Space Station, August 15, 2007. Visit the NASA Human Spaceflight Image Gallery for more information.
Those of you following this blog know that a core philosophy I embrace is that science education—indeed all education—should be about exploration owned by the learner, and as teachers and parents our charge is to light their way. It is something I believe deeply.
I’ve had the distinct honor of sharing that philosphy this past year with thousands of educators at conferences, e.g., the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) National Conference. In order to reach an even wider audience, I’m grateful that John Boswell at Symphony of Science was able to turn my thoughts and words at NSTA into a music video We’ve Got to Be That Light. How he took a guy speaking in the front of an audience and turned it into something you’d want to upload to your music library is pretty magical. If you’ve not seen the music video yet, take a look. If you have seen it, and you’re a teacher that needs to decompress a bit over Thanksgiving and a shot in the arm before returning to work might help, take another look.
Those that preach have an obligation to put their words into practice. It’s the “put up or shut up” argument. If one complains about something, in this case the state of education, then either demonstrate a fix or don’t complain. So I’m listening … to myself. If education is about ownership in learning, then science education ought to be about ownership in science—experiences that allow students the ability to truly be scientists. And I firmly believe that if you give a 5th grader the ability to do real science, all you need do is gently guide, get out of the way … and be amazed.
So I created the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), a true STEM education initiative that is designed to immerse students in real science, and along the way, engage their entire community. In this context, there is another deeply held belief at work—it takes a community to educate a child and a network of communities to reach a generation.
I’ve been working on SSEP pretty intensely for the last 3 months with an incredible team at the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) and NanoRacks, and with the most amazing local teams of educators in communities across America. We began the program in June 2010, with two SSEP missions on the final two Space Shuttle flights where thousands of grade 5-14 students were engaged in real experiment design, over 1,000 student team proposals for experiments were received, and 27 experiments were selected and flew—one for each of the participating communities. We then set our sights on routine operations on the International Space Station (ISS). The program transition to ISS was completed by the beginning of August 2011 when we announced the third SSEP flight opportunity “SSEP Mission 1 to ISS” and 12 communities came aboard giving over 40,000 students the ability to participate. Student Team proposals are due next week, and we expect nearly 1,000. Pretty cool.
Then on November 15, 2011, we released the national announcement of opportunity for SSEP Mission 2 to ISS, distributing it to 54,000 superintendents and principals. I wanted to share the announcement with you (it’s provided below) in the hope that someone reading this post might say, “hey I want my community to be part of this!” If you do, you can send me an email, or hey, call me: 301-395-0770. We’d like to see 100,000 students given the ability to be real scientists as part of Mission 2 to ISS.
For Immediate Release
92 Schools in 12 U.S. Communities Participating in Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Mission 1 to the International Space Station (ISS)
Announcing New Flight Opportunity – SSEP Mission 2 to ISS
Washington, D.C. – The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), in partnership with NanoRacks LLC, has selected 12 communities across the U.S. to participate in the third Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) flight opportunity – SSEP Mission 1 to the International Space Station (ISS) – reflecting involvement by 92 elementary, middle and high schools. The Center and NanoRacks are also proud to announce the fourth SSEP flight opportunity, Mission 2 to ISS.
Launched in June 2010, SSEP immerses typically 300 students across a community in real scientific research of their own design, using a highly captivating spaceflight opportunity on ISS, America’s newest National Laboratory. The community-focused program is open to schools and school districts serving grade 5 through 12 students, 2- and 4-year colleges and universities, informal science education organizations, and internationally through the Center’s new Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education.
Mirroring the proposal process for professional researchers, each participating community solicits proposals for a microgravity experiment from their students, with student teams vying for use of a real research mini-laboratory reserved to fly for their community. A suite of programs leverages the experience to engage the entire community, embracing a Learning Community Model for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education.
SSEP is a true STEM education program, with students proposing experiments over a wide range of biological and physical science disciplines, and designed to the technology and engineering constraints imposed by the mini-laboratory and flight operations to and from Earth orbit.
The SSEP Mission 1 communities are providing 41,200 students the opportunity to participate, and nearly 1,000 student team proposals are expected. The 12 communities are in California, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, Texas, and the District of Columbia. Half of the communities participated in SSEP on the final two flights of the Space Shuttle. The Mission 1 experiment design competition takes place October through December 2011, with the 12 selected flight experiments scheduled to fly to ISS on Soyuz 30 in March 2012.
Mission 1 Communities:
1. San Marino, California
2. West Hills, California
3. Hartford, Connecticut
4. Washington, DC
5. Lake County, Indiana
6. Ida County, Iowa
7. Charles County, Maryland
8. Fitchburg, Massachusetts
9. Pleasanton and Norris, Nebraska
10. Cincinnati, Ohio
11. Houston, Texas
12. El Paso, Texas
“SSEP is designed to empower the student as scientist, and within the real-world context of science. Student teams design a real experiment, propose for a real flight opportunity, experience a formal proposal review process, and go through a NASA flight safety review. They even have their own science conference, where they are immersed in their community of researchers”, said Dr. Jeff Goldstein, creator of SSEP and NCESSE Center Director. “The 2011 SSEP conference was held at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, which was a fantastic setting for the next generation of America’s scientists and engineers – some just 10 years old – to report on their experiment results. SSEP is about introducing real science to our children.”
The first two SSEP flight opportunities on the final flights of Space Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis (STS-134 and STS-135), engaged 27 communities, providing a combined 30,700 grade 5-14 students in 101 schools the opportunity to participate; 1,027 student team proposals were received; and 27 experiments were selected and flown on the Shuttles – one for each participating community.
New SSEP Mission 2 Flight Opportunity:
SSEP Mission 2 to ISS includes an experiment design competition March though May 2012, with selected flight experiments flying to ISS aboard Soyuz 32 in September 2012 – a great way to start the new school year. All communities interested in participating in Mission 2 should contact the Center as soon as possible.
SSEP is the first pre-college STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture. SSEP is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.
If interested in SSEP for your community, go to: SSEP Home Page
Other Links of Interest:
SSEP 3-Page Overview PDF
SSEP Participating Communities
Student Flight Experiments on Final Two Space Shuttle Flights
SSEP In the News
Program Impact from Teachers, Students, and Community Leaders
SSEP Conference, Team from Zachary, LA, National Air and Space Museum
The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) creates and oversees national initiatives addressing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, with a focus on earth and space. Programs are designed to provide an authentic window on science as a human endeavor. Central objectives of the Center’s programs are to help ensure a scientifically literate public and a next generation of U.S. scientists and engineers – both of which are of national importance in an age of high technology. NCESSE is a Project of the Tides Center. http://ncesse.org
About NanoRacks, LLC
NanoRacks LLC was formed in 2009 to provide quality hardware and services for the U.S. National Laboratory onboard the International Space Station. NanoRacks now has two research platforms onboard the U.S. National Laboratory that can house plug and play payloads using the Cube-Sat form factor. Our current signed customer pipeline of over 50 payloads, including domestic and international educational institutions, research organizations and government organizations, has propelled NanoRacks into a leadership position in understanding the emerging commercial market for low-earth orbit utilization. Visit us at www.nanoracks.com and @nanoracks
Dr. Jeff Goldstein, Center Director, NCESSE
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