The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) immerses students across a local community in an exciting, high profile science competition that is meant to result in spaceflight experiments designed and owned by the students—the Flight Experiment Design Competition, and leverages the excitement by wrapping powerful, community-wide science education programming around the experience—the Community Program. It is about engaging students, their teachers, and their families in science education, with a focus on the process of inquiry, and in a manner that is customized to a school district’s strategic needs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.
The SSEP paradigm derives from the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education’s Core Beliefs, its embraced Learning Community Model for science education, and its heritage of delivering community-wide programming—as well as the rich heritage of student spaceflight experiments enabled by Instrumentation Technology Associates’ (ITA) Student Outreach Program, which has involved thousands of students in microgravity experiments.
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.
You can read more about SSEP at the SSEP Main Site.
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.