Community Program

NOTE: This is a sub-page of the About SSEP main page which you should read first.


We believe that the excitement surrounding a community-wide competition to fly an experiment aboard the International Space Station should be leveraged into a celebration of the joys of learning, the nature of human exploration, and a broader commitment to STEM education that is strategically tuned to local curricular need. We have therefore embedded the Flight Experiment Design Competition within a programmatic framework that can engage grade K-16 students, their teachers, their families, and the public across your community, and that allows the experience of the community competition to be shared with even national audiences.

Below is a list of the Community Program elements (they are provided as part of the Baseline Program Cost unless otherwise noted)—

1. General Program Resources

The Main SSEP Website
This website, which serves as a comprehensive clearing house for SSEP program information. This website also contains the SSEP National Blog, which provides the latest program news and updates, and also serves as a showcase for community experiences (see, e.g., these posts from Hartford, CT; Lincolnwood, IL; and Crown Point, IN). Subscribe to the Blog on the SSEP Home Page to keep up-to-date.

SSEP Community Network Hubsite
The Community Network Hubsite provides an online gathering spot to explore all SSEP activities across the network of participating communities. The Hubsite includes Community Profiles; a SSEP In the News page providing links to media coverage across the nation; a SSEP In Our Own Words page, providing a sense of program impact from the leadership, teachers, and students in participating communities; a showcase for Experiments Selected for Flight; and the student-designed Mission Patches selected to fly along with the flight experiments (see Section 4 below). If you want to keep up with the world of SSEP, the Hubsite is the place to go.

Student Team Clips Archived at YouTube
You can watch video clips of all the student team oral presentations at the SSEP National Conference held each June/July at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, in Washington, DC. These clips are found in the Scientific Return and Reporting section at the Hubsite.

2. Mission Patch to Fly in Space—A Student Design Competition

Community-wide engagement, and cross-disciplinary learning are also cornerstone objectives for SSEP in the context of the embraced Learning Community Model for STEM education. In this spirit, we’re providing the opportunity for students across your community to design a Mission Patch—a paper 3.5-inch x 3.5-inch square emblem that captures your SSEP experience. We will then fly your Mission Patch in space as part of the payload containing your experiment. While participation should be open to at least the students participating in the SSEP experiment design competition, we encourage each community to broaden participation by opening the design competition to wider student involvement across, e.g., grades K-16, and to classes beyond STEM disciplines.

On a case-by-case basis, we will also consider flying two patches for a community to accommodate potentially two mission patch competitions, e.g., one for lower grades (grades K-4) and one for upper grades (grades 5-12).

At right is the Mission Patch from Canyons School District, Utah, which flew with their experiment on STS-134. Click on the photo to see their Mission Patch up close and personal. As an example of a single flight opportunity, for STS-135, 11 Mission Patches flew—one for each participating community, and were selected from a total of 974 submitted designs. Across the first 12 SSEP flight opportunities, over 65,700 Mission Patch designs were received. Visit the Community Network Hubsite to see all the Mission Patches that have been selected for flight.

3. Student Voices of Mission Control

We invite each participating community to set up a Twitter account where students you designate serve as your community’s Student Voices of Mission Control, providing real-time, ongoing coverage of the flight of your experiment, from pre-flight preparations, to launch, flight operations, and return to Earth. Individual Twitter accounts can be followed at Twitter, or if you provide SSEP the account name, we can include it in an aggregated stream of all community accounts, which can be viewed at both SSEP websites. The goal is to provide live, interactive coverage of your local experience for both national and global audiences.

If you don’t want to set up an official community Twitter account for SSEP, but want to let anyone with a Twitter account in your community participate in the conversation, there is a straightforward approach. If your Tweeps (yes, that’s what Twitter users are called) include the #SSEP1 hashtag in their tweets, it will appear in  a Twitter stream widget for #SSEP1 that is located in the right column on all main pages at both SSEP websites.

Also found at the SSEP websites is an aggregate Twitter stream for all the astronaut Tweeps currently aboard ISS.

For a deeper sense of the Twitter experience, read the following essay at Huffington Post by Dr. Jeff Goldstein:

The Remarkable Power of Twitter: A Water Cooler for the 21st Century

4. Community-Wide Programming by a National Team of Scientists and Engineers

Note: This is a Supplemental Program Option, and is not covered as part of the Baseline Program Cost

Your community can host—for up to a week—a National Team of scientists and engineers to celebrate the accomplishments of ALL the students engaged in the Flight Experiment Opportunity, and to serve as role models and heroes to America’s next generation of scientists and engineers.

The researchers on the National Team are from research institutions across the nation—and these are scientists and engineers who are selected because they are passionate about their research and gifted at communicating that passion to audiences of all ages.

The programming is delivered through NCESSE’s Journey through the Universe national initiative, which embraces a Learning Community Model for science education. In each community, classroom visits by the National Team for up to thousands of students—one classroom at a time, and presentations to families and the public, provide an authentic view of the nature of science, the lives of modern-day explorers, and the educational pathway to the frontier. The hallmarks of the visits and presentations are audience participation, very personal and personable stories of exploration, and embracing the notion that science is organized curiosity—the art of posing a question, crafting a pathway to an answer, and reveling in learning something wholly new. The family and public presentations can also serve as venues where the community as a whole can honor all the student teams that proposed flight experiments, and where awards can be bestowed for participation in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.

Programming can also include a 1-day workshop for 30 to 200 educators at any grade level, customized to local curricular need, and capable of addressing a variety of topics, including: use of inquiry-based learning in the classroom, and experimental design. Additional day-long workshops to week-long summer institutes can provide training on grade K-12 compendia of lessons in the Earth and space sciences, spaceflight, and space engineering that are designed to national science education standards.

Through choice of available content and programming resources, communities small and large can create a customized Journey through the Universe program that reflects their strategic needs in STEM education; can be delivered systemically across an entire school district; and is designed to be sustainable.

Visit the Journey through the Universe page at the NCESSE website as a one-stop-shop for program details, including a comprehensive set of links to pages on program design, pedagogy, assessment, available content, connections to standards and NCLB, and to extensive testimonials from the educational leadership in communities across the nation.

As a benchmark: consider a Team of 3 researchers traveling to a community for a week of Classroom Visits, Monday through Friday mid-day, with arrival on Sunday, and departure Friday afternoon. The Team could conduct a maximum of 65 class visits, of typically 45 minutes each. If each visit is to a class of 30, then 1,950 students could be engaged. If each visit is to a double class, then the audience could be nearly 4,000 students. The Team could also conduct 1 or 2 Family and Public Programs for the community. Baseline Assessment would be conducted for both the Classroom Visits and Family and Public Programs.

5. A National Conference in Washington, DC
Note: This is a Supplemental Program Option since a conference registration fee per attendee may be required. A registration fee is not covered in the Baseline Program Cost. In addition, all travel costs, including airfare, hotel, meals, and miscellaneous travel, are the responsibility of the attendees.

A SSEP National Conference will be held in the nation’s capital where students from all communities participating in the SSEP can present on their experiment designs, and those teams that flew experiments can report preliminary results. We want to immerse students in the experience of a 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 conference will include featured presentations by nationally recognized space scientists and engineers who will passionately talk about exploration, and hopefully inspire many young women and men in the audience to follow in their footsteps.

The 2011 through 2017 Conferences were held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the most visited museum on the planet, and with no registration fee. The conferences take place in the Moving Beyond Earth Gallery, where student teams present on their experiment designs and results using power point presentations. The visiting public is invited to watch the conference as part of the museum visitorship experience. Student teams also present to the public on display boards in the Space Race gallery. Visit the SSEP National Conference page for more information.

The 2018 SSEP National Conference is expected to be held at the National Air and Space Museum June 2018, and with no registration fee.

NCESSE has been conducting powerful science education programs in partnership with the Museum’s Education Division for 24 years.

Click to Zoom on the photos below, taken at the 2011 SSEP National Conference, held July 6-7, 2011.

Return to About SSEP 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 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.