SSEP student researchers conducting a powerpoint presentation on STS-134 experiment results at 2011 SSEP National Conference.

SSEP student researchers conducting a powerpoint presentation on STS-134 experiment results at 2011 SSEP National Conference.

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education have just launched a new web section at the SSEP Community Network Hubsite, which is dedicated to student team reporting on experiment design and science results. A main reporting page provides an overview of the new section and its purpose, and provides links to a reporting page dedicated to each flight opportunity. A Guideline for SSEP Research Papers will be uploaded to the SSEP Document Library by mid-January 2013. The Guideline will provide student teams guidance for the sections appropriate for a research paper and the content to be addressed in each section. It is patterned after the Flight Experiment Proposal Guide. The approach is a research paper that naturally extends the original experiment proposal by adding sections on how the experiment was conducted, data analysis, interpretation, and future directions.

From the main Scientific Return and Reporting page –

These pages provide SSEP student research teams a public forum where they can report on their microgravity experiment designs, experiment refinement, and experimental results. These pages provide an archive for both conference presentations and research papers – which are the two main vehicles that are used by professional researchers to communicate research status and scientific results to the global community of researchers. The conference presentations reflect oral presentations by SSEP teams at the Annual SSEP National Conference at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and are taped and archived on YouTube by the Smithsonian. The research papers are written based on a guideline provided to SSEP participating communities that provides grade level appropriate guidance for the format of a research paper.

A video compilation of poster sessions conducted by SSEP student research teams in the Space Race gallery at the National Air and Space Museum during the July 2012 Annual SSEP National Conference.

Overarching Pedagogy – A Context
The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is about inspiring and engaging the next generation of scientists and engineers by immersing students in authentic scientific research. Through this program, the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education invites communities of students at the local level, starting with grade 5, to fully take on the mantle of real researchers, and experience every facet of scientific research. This pedagogical approach reflects the belief that exploration as practiced by professional scientists and engineers grows organically from what it means to be human, embracing the innate human characteristics of curiosity and evidence-based learning – which we exhibit from birth. In this context, we recognize that our students – even at the elementary school level – are fully capable of doing science, and in fact do science on a daily basis as they navigate their world, though they may not recognize it as “science”.

The Center created SSEP as a means of embedding the authentic research experience in formal education, so that ownership in learning, inquiry-based exploration, critical thinking, teamwork, and exploration of inter-disciplinary landscapes, can be extended to the formal classroom environment using a project-based approach. Most importantly, these are the skills that characterize jobs of the 21st century, yet merely reflect a natural extension of what it means to be human. We believe that this is a pedagogical recipe for success to establish a next generation of researchers, and a scientifically literate public that will be asked to make critical decisions on the use of science and technology affecting our community, our nation, and our world.

SSEP allows student teams to design a real research program – in this case a real microgravity experiment – like scientists, with real constraints imposed by the experimental apparatus, current knowledge, and the environment in which the experiment will be conducted; it allows students to formally propose for a real spaceflight opportunity for their experiment like professional scientists, bringing critical written communications skills to bear; it allows students to experience a real 2-step science proposal review process; it allows students to go through a real flight safety review like professional researchers; it provides students their own science conference, where they are immersed in their community of researchers, communicating their thoughts, ideas, and experimental results to their peers; and it provides a public forum for scientific papers written by student research teams.

Science is a way of thinking about, interacting with, and exploring the natural world. And the practice of scientific exploration is a complex social landscape filled with challenges, and the need for multi-faceted and successful communication with ones peers. Science is far more than a book of knowledge. In fact it has never been a book of knowledge. Science is journey, and SSEP is charged with immersing our students in that journey.

Jump to:Scientific Return and Reporting main page



The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with NanoRacks LLC, working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.  The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is a National Partner on SSEP.

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