Private Sector Effort Offers Real Research Opportunity for Grade 5-16 Students aboard International Space Station, 50,000 Expected to Participate

Next Phase of Bold New STEM Education Program that Attracted National Attention with Student Experiments on Final Flights of Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis, and Provided Participation to 30,700 Students

Sunday, July 31, 2011
Video Overview of SSEP Available at StemStream TV on the TV Worldwide Network
Download 3-Page SSEP Program Overview PDF

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Click on the image and feel the magic. The International Space Station (ISS) with Endeavour (STS-135) docked. 16 SSEP Experiments are aboard. ISS dwarfs Endeavour.

SSEP is a keystone Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education program launched as a U.S. National initiative in June 2010. More broadly, SSEP is about a commitment to student ownership in exploration, to science as journey, and to the joys of learning. For school districts—even individual schools—it provides an opportunity to implement a systemic, high caliber, and historic STEM education program that is tailored to a community’s strategic needs in STEM education.

Each participating community will be provided an experiment slot in a real microgravity research mini-laboratory scheduled to fly on the International Space Station (ISS) from March 30 to May 16, 2012. An experiment design competition in each community—engaging typically 300 to 1,000 students—allows student teams to design real experiments vying for their community’s reserved experiment slot on ISS. Additional SSEP programming leverages the flight design competition to engage the community, embracing NCESSE’s Learning Community Model for STEM education.

SSEP Mission 1 to ISS is currently the only SSEP flight opportunity available. SSEP missions on STS-134 (Shuttle Endeavour) and STS-135 (Shuttle Atlantis) have recently been completed, with 1,027 student team proposals submitted, and 27 SSEP experiments selected and flown—representing the 27 communities that participated in SSEP on the Space Shuttle.

SSEP Mission 1 to ISS is open to the following five categories of communities:

  • Pre-College (the core focus for SSEP) in the U.S., (grades 5-12), with a participating school district—even an individual school—providing stunning, real, on-orbit RESEARCH opportunities to their upper elementary, middle, and high school students
  • 2-Year Community Colleges in the U.S., (grades 13-14), where the student body is typically from the local community, providing wonderful pathways for community-wide engagement
  • 4-Year Colleges and Universities in the U.S., (grades 13-16), with an emphasis on Minority-Serving Institutions, where the program fosters interdisciplinary collaboration across schools and departments, and an opportunity for formal workforce development for science majors
  • Communities in the U.S. led by Informal Education or Out-of-School Organizations, (e.g., a museum or science center, a homeschool network, a boy scout troop), because high caliber STEM education programs must be accessible to organizations that promote effective learning beyond the traditional classroom
  • Communities in ISS Partner Nations: EU nations, Canada and Japan with participation through NCESSE’s Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education

Imagine your community participating in this—an adventure in real science on the space frontier, that students, teachers, and families will remember for a lifetime.

Video caption: These images of the International Space Station, the docked ATV-2 Johannes Kepler and the docked Space Shuttle Endeavour, flying at an altitude of approximately 220 miles, were taken by ESA astronaut and Expedition 27 crew member Paolo Nespoli from the Soyuz TMA-20 following its undocking on 23 May 2011. They are the first-ever images of a space shuttle docked to the International Space Station. Onboard the Soyuz were Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 27 commander Dmitry Kondratyev; Nespoli; and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman. Coleman and Nespoli were both flight engineers. The three landed in Kazakhstan later that day, completing 159 days in space. Credit: ESA/NASA/Roscosmos

For a good background on SSEP, and to introduce the opportunity to key individuals in your community, WATCH THIS SSEP VIDEO at STEMStream TV by Dr. Jeff Goldstein, SSEP Program Director, and Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education.

Program Basics

  • A community of any size can participate, including a small school district, an individual school, a large inner city or suburban district, a cluster of rural districts, a college, or a museum/science center or other informal education led community-based effort
  • A community typically provides the opportunity for 300 to 1,000 students to participate in their Experiment Design Competition
  • A community can open the competition to any grade level(s) in the grade 5-16 range, and through the provided elements of the SSEP Community Program, can engage wider audiences (all grade levels, families, and the general public)
  • SSEP is a bold new commercial space venture in partnership with NanoRacks LLC. The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, must recover the actual costs for the program (lease of space in the flight payload, flight integration services, program delivery and support), but also recognizes the significant challenge to a community in securing underwriting in the current financial climate. That said, the Center is committed to trying to find funding for any community interested in participating. The Center found funding for 21 of the 27 communities that participated in SSEP on STS-134 and STS-135, the final two flights of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program. If you are interested in this program, let us help.

Critical elements associated with the SSEP Mission 1 to ISS flight opportunity—

1. Time Available for Experiment Design: Your Student Teams, together with their Teacher Facilitators, will have at least 8 weeks (October 1 to November 28, 2011) to: begin the program in classrooms across your community, design experiments, and write and submit 5-page proposals, with proposals due by November 28, 2011. Note that NCESSE has a significant number of resources that make this process straight-forward, including an instructionally designed recipe allowing teachers to easily facilitate: introduction of the program in the classroom, experiment design, and proposal writing.

2. Finding Your Community Funding: We stand ready to aggressively help your community identify funders capable of a short turn-around, talk to funders on your behalf and in coordination with you, and write any needed proposals. Given our successful fundraising effort for the 21 of 27 communities participating in SSEP on the Space Shuttle, we now have active relationships with funders across the nation.

We have assembled the following suite of resources for fundraising:

  • bulleted list of powerful SSEP talking points that can be called upon when talking to a potential funder
  • extensive experience successfully talking to funders about SSEP on behalf of interested communities
  • databases of funders on a regional and local level, that allow us to rapidly do a search for appropriate funders
  • a proposal template with straight-forward sections that address a community’s demographics and strategic needs in STEM education. The template allows a proposal to be written and submitted to a funder (if needed) with no more than a 2-3 hour investment of time.

3. Letter of Commitment of Funding: All participating communities must submit Letters of Commitment of funding by September 15, 2011.

4. Starting Early: Communities can begin the program in classrooms as early as September 16, 2011, which would provide an additional 2 weeks of experiment design and proposal writing. Contact Us for more information.

5. Contract: The deadline for signing a contract is October 15, 2011.

6. Other Key Milestones:

  • Experiments selected for flight: December 23, 2011
  • Ferry Flight of SSEP Payload to ISS Aboard Soyuz 30, launch date: March 30, 2012
  • Ferry Flight of SSEP Payload back to Earth Aboard Soyuz 29, landing: May 16, 2012
  • SSEP National Conference for students: early July 2012, most likely held at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, the site of the 2011 Conference

7. Getting Your Community Interested and Aboard: We offer teleconferences and video-conferences as needed to introduce the program to your key community leadership (e.g., school and district leadership), and to the Local Team of educators that you would charge with carrying out the program. Conference call objectives: provide an overview of the program, tune the program to community need, answer questions, and get everyone on the same page. These conference calls have been exceedingly successful in getting the 27 communities participating in SSEP on Space Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis aboard rapidly and moving.

To gauge program success, see the following pages:

Download a 3-Page SSEP Program Overview. This is a MS Word document appropriate for emailing to colleagues, or for print distribution. If this MS Word document is opened on screen, all the links to relevant content on SSEP web pages will be active, and you can click on a link as needed to see the web content in the appropriate context.

Your Next Steps, If Interested

Note that we have limited experiment slots available for SSEP Mission 1 to ISS, and we urge interested communities to call or email, ASAP, Dr. Jeff Goldstein, SSEP Program Director, and Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. Contact information may be found on the Contact page. Dr. Goldstein will set up a phone call with you to explore whether this program makes sense for your community, see how SSEP can be tailored to your strategic needs in STEM education, and how we can help get you aboard.

All interested communities are advised to go to the SSEP Home Page (with a cup of coffee or tea in hand) and carefully read about this program, its goals, and all the program elements that are provided to a community to make this a true STEM immersion program in REAL SCIENCE for your students.

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The SSEP on-orbit research opportunity 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.

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