aSTEAM Village SSEP KC Mission 17 to the ISS

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The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Kansas City Mission 17 to the International Space Station

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At a time when it should be the birthright of all students to an education that allows them to successfully enter the job markets of the 21st century…

At a time when America must inspire its next generation of scientists and engineers if the nation is to compete in the technology markets of the 21st century…

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) was launched in June 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in strategic partnership with NanoRacks, LLC. Designed as a model U.S. National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative, the program gives students across a participating community the ability to design and propose real microgravity experiments to fly in low Earth orbit (experiments conducted in a “weightless” environment). SSEP was first carried out aboard the final two flights of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program. In 2012 SSEP transitioned to operations on the International Space Station (ISS)—America’s newest National Laboratory.

SSEP is suitable for students in pre-college grades 5-12, 2-year community colleges, and 4-year colleges and universities. For pre-college grades 5-12, each community typically engages 300+ students (at least 100) in microgravity experiment design and proposal writing. For an undergraduate community, it is expected that at least 30 students will be engaged.

In 2012, SSEP was extended to international communities through the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, NCESSE’s new international arm.

For school districts—even individual schools—SSEP provides an opportunity to implement a systemic, high caliber STEM education program tailored to a community’s strategic needs in STEM education.

Program Overview: Each community participating in SSEP is provided a microgravity research mini-laboratory, and guaranteed launch services to transport the mini-lab containing a single experiment to the International Space Station (ISS), where it will be operated by the astronauts. Mirroring how professional researchers compete to obtain limited research assets, the community conducts a local Flight Experiment Design Competition, with their student teams submitting formal experiment proposals. Proposals go through a 2-step review process to select the single flight experiment for the community. SSEP provides your community its own real space program.

The SSEP KC design competition – from program start, to experiment design, to submission of proposals by your student teams – runs 9 weeks. Students can design experiments in diverse fields, including: seed germination, crystal growth, physiology and life cycles of microorganisms (e.g. bacteria), cell biology and growth, food studies, and studies of micro-aquatic life. Content resources for teachers and students support foundational instruction on science in microgravity and experimental design.

A suite of SSEP program elements – the Community Program – leverages the flight experiment design competition to engage the entire community, embracing a Learning Community Model for STEM education.

Heritage: The SSEP paradigm derives from the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education’s Core Beliefs, its embraced Learning Community Model for STEM education, its heritage of delivering community-wide programming, and its heritage of SSEP operations to date.

Who Can Participate: The program is open to Kansas City metropolitan area students in grades 5-12, with school districts—even individual schools—providing a stunning, real, on-orbit RESEARCH opportunity to their upper elementary, middle, and high school students.

Pedagogy: When designing SSEP, we had our pedagogical approach to STEM education in mind. SSEP empowers the student as scientist, and within the real-world context of science that is far more than exploration through inquiry.

SSEP allows student teams to—

• design an experiment like professional scientists, with real constraints imposed by the experimental apparatus, current knowledge, and the environment in which the experiment will be conducted

• write a formal research proposal like professional scientists, requiring critical written communications skills

• experience a real 2-step science proposal review process

• have their own science conference, a venue where they are immersed in their community of researchers, and in which they can communicate their thoughts, ideas, and experimental results to their peers.

TO THE TEACHER: The Essential Question for Design of an Experiment–

What physical, chemical, or biological system would I like to explore with gravity seemingly turned off for a period of time, as a means of assessing the role of gravity in that system?  You will be invited to explore the SSEP experiments that have already flown.

A New Approach to STEM Education: 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. It is made possible by the new private sector of companies providing transport services to and from low Earth orbit. SSEP is not a NASA program.

Our Motivation and Commitment: Science is more than a book of knowledge. Science is a way of thinking and interacting with the natural world. And science is also a complex social landscape filled with challenges, and the need for multi-faceted and successful communication with one's peers. SSEP is about introducing real science to our next generation of scientists and engineers.

We invite students of the Kansas City metropolitan area to truly slip on the shoes of researchers and design and propose experiments just like professional scientists and engineers. One cannot imagine an education program with greater potential to engage students in the process of scientific inquiry and get them thinking about a career across all STEM disciplines.

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, which is working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, and Subaru of America, Inc., are U.S. National Partners on SSEP. Magellan Aerospace is a Canadian National Partner on SSEP.

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