2015 SSEP National Conference, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, July 2-3, 2015



The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as seen from the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Information still to be determined (if any) is in RED TEXT below.
Information that has been updated since this page went live on May 14, 2015, is in GREEN TEXT below.

Last update of this page: June 25, 2015, 7:52 am ET

This is the 2015 SSEP Conference main page, which is accessible via the ‘Conference’ button in the navigation banner at the top. This page provides an overview of the conference, expectations, and logistical information. There are three sub-pages to this main page:

Jump to:
2015 SSEP National Conference – Agenda
2015 SSEP National Conference – Student Team Oral Presentations
2015 SSEP National Conference – Featured Talks and Family Science Night Presentation


The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM), the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education are proud to host the 2015 SSEP National Conference at the Museum on July 2 and 3, 2015.

All students and student teams that were engaged in SSEP experiment design and proposal writing—across all ten SSEP flight opportunities to date (SSEP on STS-134 and STS-135, and Missions 1 through 8 to ISS)—are wholeheartedly invited to attend their conference with their teachers and school administrators, and their families.

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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 one of the most visited museums on the planet, and in the new Moving Beyond Earth gallery. A stanchioned-off, ‘standing room only’ 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.


Only pre-registered delegates with badges will be allowed entry to the main conference area. 

SSEP students, their teachers, and their families that are interested in attending the 2015 Conference, but who are not already part of attending delegations, should review this page and contact their local SSEP Community Program Director as soon as possible. Only a SSEP Community Program Director can submit a request to NCESSE to add delegates, and such requests will be assessed by NCESSE on a first come first served basis. If you do not know the name and contact information for your Community Program Director contact NCESSE as soon as possible.

NCESSE is able to make available VIP seats to representatives of SSEP partner organizations, though VIP seating is limited. Partner organizations are asked to contact NCESSE as soon as possible.


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 one’s 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 Expectations: all students attending the conference that are 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).

  • Each Team will be assigned a time for their oral presentation on one of the two Conference days.  
  • NEW FOR 2015: Each Team will conduct a poster presentation on the same day as their oral presentation.

Each team will therefore conduct their oral and poster presentations on the same Conference day.  

Each presentation at the SSEP National Conference should include the science addressed by the experiment and why, the essential question that drove experiment definition, and the design of the experiment, including procedures for analysis of results (e.g. comparison to a ground truth experiment.)

For student teams that:

a. did not have their experiment selected for flight, the presentation should report on their ground truth experimental results, and possible hypotheses as to what they might have found if the experiment had been done on orbit and why.

b. had a flight experiment and it returned from orbit well in advance of the conference, the presentation should include formal experiment analysis and results.

c. had a flight experiment, but it returned to Earth just in advance of the conference, the presentation should report on preliminary results from the ground truth and flight experiments.

d. have a flight experiment, but it has not yet flown, the presentation should report on preliminary ground truth results if possible, and possible hypotheses as to what they might find when the experiment is done on orbit and why.

e. have a flight experiment currently on ISS, the presentation should include the current state of activities for both on-orbit experiment and ground truth experiments.

Oral Presentations
Oral presentations must be done in PowerPoint format – no other format will be allowed or considered.  Each team will be limited to a MAXIMUM of 9 minutes, including 7 minutes for the formal presentation and 2 minutes for Q&A. All teams should be aware that the moderator will cut them off after 7 minutes to begin the Q&A portion, to ensure we remain on schedule – as is the case for professional conferences. If the team’s formal presentation is shorter than 7 minutes, then that will allow more time for Q&A in the allotted total of 9 minutes. A rule of thumb is to allow for 1 minute per slide, which suggests no more than 7 PowerPoint slides for a single presentation.

The oral presentation must include a slide acknowledging all Local Partner organizations that made SSEP possible for the community, including funders, as well as institutions that provided staff to serve as research advisors or on the Step 1 Review Board for proposal review. This slide must also include all SSEP National Partners that provided underwriting needed to close budget shortfalls for the community to participate in SSEP. Your Community Program Director should have a list of all Local and National Partners for your community.

The oral presentation must include a slide listing your student researchers, and designating if they are Principal or Co-Principal Investigators, Co-Investigators, or Collaborators. This slide must also include the name and affiliation of your Teacher Facilitator.   

Teams should not use what might be considered a ‘cute’ title for their presentation. This is a formal research conference and the aim should be to use a formal scientific title.

Poster Presentations
As part of the Conference experience, we are setting up tables in the Museum’s Space Race Gallery for display board presentations by the student teams. The idea is to give the students the honor of interacting with the visiting public to one of the most visited museums on the planet and talk about their SSEP experiments.

The most straightforward way to create your poster presentation is to print in color, and on good quality paper, your PowerPoint slides and then tape them to the display boards. We will make available a 36 x 48 inch display board and a table for each presentation team. Remember the rule of thumb is that a 7-minute PowerPoint should be associated with no more than 7 PowerPoint slides (or 1 per minute), which will fit on the display board.

To get a sense of both the oral presentations in the Moving Beyond Earth gallery, and the poster presentations in the Space Race gallery, see video highlights for prior SSEP National Conferences on the SSEP Scientific Return and Reporting pages.

Important Notes:

Oral Presentation Description: In advance of the conference, NCESSE will ask each student team to provide information on their oral presentation, including: the school, the grade level of the team, the presentation title, the type of experiment and SSEP flight opportunity (e.g., Flight Experiment, Mission 6 to ISS), the names of the researchers on the team (broken out by Principal Investigators, Co-Investigators, and Collaborators), the name of the Teacher Facilitator, and a description of the presentation – called an ‘Abstract’. The Abstract shall not exceed 80 words.

You will find a sample Oral Presentation Description, and a downloadable Oral Presentation Template that each student team is required to complete and submit to NCESSE, on the Student Team Oral Presentations page.  Once received and approved by NCESSE, your Oral Presentation Description will be added to the Student Team Oral Presentation page.

Oral Presentation Descriptions are due no later 5:00 pm EDT, Friday, June 12, 2015, and need to be emailed to John Hamel (johnhamel@ncesse.org)


Photo-Releases: We are video-archiving the conference, with video clips to be posted on YouTube. A signed photo-release from all attendees is therefore essential. In advance of the conference, EVERY attendee must provide a signed photo-release form, allowing video-taping by the Smithsonian. Anyone without a signed photo-release form on file cannot be admitted to the conference site. A blank Smithsonian photo-release form template will be sent to the community leadership in those communities sending SSEP delegations to the conference.

IMPORTANT NOTE 1: Only Smithsonian Institution photo-release forms will be accepted. Standard forms used by schools will not be accepted.

IMPORTANT NOTE 2: NCESSE will only accept a single PDF file from a community’s leadership that must include ALL photo-release forms for the community’s attendees. All photo-release forms completed by individual attendees must therefore be submitted to their community leadership and not NCESSE.

IMPORTANT NOTE 3: a photo-release form for a minor must be signed by a parent or it cannot be accepted.

Photo-releases as a single PDF file are due from each community no later 5:00 pm EDT, Friday, June 12, 2015, and need to be emailed to John Hamel (johnhamel@ncesse.org)


Email your PowerPoint, and Bring a Back-up PowerPoint on a Thumb Drive: All presenters are required to email their PowerPoint presentations to NCESSE for review, approval, and acceptance. However, make sure to bring with you to the Museum a backup of your PowerPoint presentation on a thumb drive.

PowerPoint presentations are due no later 5:00 pm EDT, Friday, June 12, 2015, and need to be emailed to John Hamel (johnhamel@ncesse.org)


Banner: Remember that for your PowerPoint and poster, you have access to a high resolution SSEP Program banners at: http://ssep.ncesse.org/links/

Food: Attendees are on their own for lunch in the area, and no food or drink can be brought into the Museum. Note that the Museum has a McDonalds just outside the gallery where the conference is being held.

Museum Fees: Entry to the Museum is free but the IMAX films, planetarium shows, and simulator have a fee.

Arrival: Please arrive at the Independence Avenue entrance to the Museum each day.


3.  Conference Venue Space Limitations and Attendance Restrictions

The venue for the Conference, the Moving Beyond Earth gallery, has very real space limitations. The gallery has approximately 180 seats, and at the gallery’s entrance and around the periphery there will be a stanchioned-off, standing room only section for overflow attendees and for the Museum’s public visitorship.

As of June 25, 2015, we are expecting 30 oral presentations, representing 24 SSEP communities, and 410 attendees.

In 2014, the 2-day Conference accommodated 29 oral presentations. For 2015, an increase to 32 oral presentations was not a large enough increase to justify adding a 3rd conference day. To accommodate more oral presentations, the oral presentation time for 2015 was therefore reduced from 10 to 9 minutes, where the formal powerpoint presentation is 7 minutes as before, but the Q&A has been reduced from 3 to 2 minutes.

REQUIRED ATTENDANCE RESTRICTIONS: While we were able to handle the increased number of oral presentations, we are still limited to a total of 180 seats in the gallery, which is less than half of the projected total attendance. NCESSE therefore has to impose a protocol to ensure that no more than 180 attendees are in the conference space at any given time. By definition the solution must be a compromise.

The conference is designed to provide the SSEP student researchers a true research conference experience. The conference is therefore specifically designed to host the student researchers and their teacher facilitators. Family members – parents and siblings – are only a secondary audience. Yet family members comprise the largest attendance block.

Currently there are: 410 attendees – 107 student researchers, 41 teachers/administrators, 259 family members, and 3 other stakeholders

We will therefore place priority on allowing all student researchers and their teachers/administrators to be in the conference space on their presentation day. We expect roughly half the total number of attending students to present on each conference day, which would require roughly 75 committed seats on that day if their teachers and administrators are included. This leaves nearly 100 rotating seats that can be used by all other delegates – students, teachers/administrators, family members, and stakeholders. Attendees are also welcome to use the standing room only public area.


4. Conference Cost

NCESSE and NASM recognize that conference travel costs for attendees are significant, and in the midst of tough economic times.

Professional conferences are always associated with registration fees to cover AV, room rental, and the significant staff time for logistics and program delivery. That said, both NCESSE and NASM have worked hard to minimize conference costs, and have then absorbed these costs in their operating budgets. We do not want to add to the burden for attendees, and feel a memorable and very real research conference at the Museum—for students taking part in this ground-breaking U.S. National STEM education initiative—is something we wanted to do without cost.

We are looking forward to your arrival in the Nation’s Capital, and our get-together as an SSEP family.


5. SSEP De-Brief Meeting with Community Program Directors (CPDs) and Teacher Facilitators

The National Conference also provides a venue where SSEP leadership from participating communities across the U.S. and Canada can discuss program successes, areas for improvement, and strategically plan for enhanced and expanded SSEP operations during future flight opportunities. A SSEP de-briefing meeting with Community Program Directors and Teacher Facilitators is therefore scheduled for 1.5 hours on Day 2 of the Conference, 3:30-5:00 pm, in the Museum’s briefing room.


6. Hotel

The hotel we are recommending for the Conference is the Holiday Inn Washington-Capitol. It is just 2 blocks from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. NCESSE reserved a block of rooms at conference rates at the Holiday Inn. This information was passed on to the SSEP Community Program Directors in each community to pass on to their delegations.

Note that the National Air and Space Museum is just two blocks from the L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station, so there are many other hotels in the metro DC area that are a short metro trip away from the conference site.

Hotel rates further away from downtown DC may be significantly lower, so you may want to check hotels close to metro stops in the greater DC metro area. The yellow, green, orange, and blue metro lines stop at the L’Enfant Plaza metro station, and you can transfer easily to these lines from the red metro line, as well. For example, there are many hotels near Crystal City and King Street yellow and blue line metro stations, as well as along the orange line metro stops in Arlington (Court House and points west.) There are also many hotels along red line metro stops in Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Rockville, and Silver Spring. To look for lower lodging rates near metro stops in the area, we recommend you use a hotel search engine or booking site of your choice and search around a metro stop that is most convenient for you.


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 Smithsonian National Air and Space MuseumCenter for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and Subaru of America, Inc., are U.S. National Partners on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. Magellan Aerospace is a Canadian National Partner on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.

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.