Invitation to the 2012 SSEP National Conference at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, July 2-3, 2012

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The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) are proud to host the 2012 SSEP National Conference at the Museum on July 2 and 3, 2012.

All students and student teams that were engaged in SSEP experiment design and proposal writing—across all four SSEP flight opportunities to date (SSEP on STS-134 and STS-135, and Missions 1 and 2 to ISS)—are wholeheartedly invited to attend their conference with their teachers and school administrators, and their families.

An invitation is also warmly extended to representatives of the nearly 200 partnering organizations, including underwriting institutions, and research institutions whose researchers have been engaged as expert advisors and as members of Step 1 Proposal Review Boards.

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The conference provides a formal gathering place where students present on their experiment designs, and those teams that flew experiments report results. We want to immerse students in the experience of a real science conference. It is fitting. If the SSEP is dedicated to letting students step into the shoes of scientists and engineers, then a conference should be part of the experience.

The SSEP National Conference is taking place in the most visited museum on the planet, and in the new Moving Beyond Earth gallery. A section of the gallery will remain open to the public so that the conference can be part of the public visitorship experience. This is a truly remarkable once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for attendees.

The conference was also scheduled immediately before July 4th in the nation’s capital, so that attendees can stay on and watch the 4th of July fireworks on the National Mall.


1. A Review of SSEP Program 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 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 propose for a real flight opportunity 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; and 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. Science is more than a way of thinking and interacting with the natural world. Science is more than a book of knowledge. Science is also a complex social landscape filled with challenges, and the need for multi-faceted and successful communication with ones peers. SSEP is about introducing real science to our next generation of scientists and engineers.


2. Conference Opportunities and Expectations

The main objective for the conference is to provide student teams a venue to report on their SSEP research, which, for each team, is reflected in the design of a microgravity experiment to assess some facet of nature. Reporting is done through both oral and poster presentations, which is precisely what researchers do at professional science conferences.

Important Expectation: all students attending the conference that were part of SSEP experiment design teams shall present, either individually or as part of a team, an oral PowerPoint presentation in the conference venue (the Moving Beyond Earth gallery), and a poster version of their PowerPoint to the visiting public (in the Space Race gallery).


3. How to Participate

The new 2012 SSEP National Conference page is now on this website, and is accessible via the “National Conference” button in the navigation banner at the top of the website. The page includes full details of presentation requirements by students, a conference schedule, descriptions of all presentations, and arrival and hotel information.

Regarding conference attendance, we have already been working with SSEP Community Program Directors in communities that have participated in the prior and current SSEP flight opportunities. There are currently 8 delegations attending from across the nation and 11 student team presentations, reflecting a total attendance of 117. The conference venue has a capacity of 170, and we also have the ability to increase conference attendance by rotating family members through the conference space if needed. We therefore have room for more attendees.

This Blog Post is a general invitation to families of students that may not have been notified of the conference opportunity through their communities, and an invitation to all the partner organizations that have made SSEP possible.

Anyone interested in attending the 2012 Conference, and who is not already part of attending delegations, should review the 2012 National Conference page and contact NCESSE as soon as possible. IMPORTANT NOTE: only registered attendees can participate in the conference. Additional attendees will be accepted on a first come first served basis, as conference space remains available.  


4. National Partner for the Conference

The Center is honored to be partnering with the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on SSEP, with the 2011 and 2012 National Conferences held in the Moving Beyond Earth gallery at the Museum—the most visted museum on the planet. The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is a SSEP National Partner, and is also the venue, along with the Carnegie Institution of Washington, for meetings of the SSEP Step 2 Review Board where the flight experiments are selected for each SSEP flight opportunity.

Jump to 2012 SSEP National Conference page


5. A Taste of the Conference

An earlier Blog Post (April 13, 2012) included video clips that wonderfully showcased the 2011 SSEP National Conference. Below are new video clips of the 2011 Conference, with our next generation of researchers showing what they are capable of achieving if given a chance to be researchers right now.

Zachary, LA

Lincolnwood, IL

Portland, OR

Guilford County, North Carolina


SSEP is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in partnership with NanoRacks LLC. This on-orbit, real research opportunity for students 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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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 DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are 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.