2011 SSEP National Conference, Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC, July 6-7, 2011

POST CONFERENCE UPDATE: descriptions of all 2011 conference presentations are found at the bottom of this page. On September 20, 2011 the video archive of all conference presentations was posted at the Smithsonian, National Air and Space Museum YouTube site.
Go to: SSEP 2011 Conference playlist


The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education are hosting the SSEP National Conference on July 6 and 7, 2011, for students, teachers, administrators, and parents from the communities participating in SSEP on STS-134.

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

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 core objective of the conference is to provide student teams the means to conduct oral and poster presentations on their science results. This is precisely what professional researchers do at professional science conferences.

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 attendees that had an experiment flying on STS-134, presentations should include at least preliminary experiment results. For student attendees that 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 were done on orbit and why.

Important Expectation: all students attending the conference shall present—either individually or as part of a team—an oral presentation.

Oral presentations should be done in Power Point, limited to a MAXIMUM of 10 minutes, including 7 minutes for the presentation and 3 minutes for Q&A (there will be a hard cutoff to ensure we remain on schedule – just like professional conferences), and a rule of thumb is to allow for 1 minute per slide, which suggests no more than 7 power point slides for a single presentation.

Poster Presentation information

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 the most visited museum on the planet and talk about their SSEP experiments.

The most straightforward way to create your presentation is to print in color, and on good quality paper, your power point 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 power point should be associated with no more than 7 power point slides ( or 1 per minute), which will fit on the display board.

Important Notes:

  • Bring a Back-up Power Point: All presenters are required to email their power point presentations to NCESSE no later than 5: 00 PM EDT, Thursday, June 30. However, make sure to bring with you to the Museum a backup of your power point presentation on a thumb drive.
  • Banner: Remember that for your power point and poster, you have access to a high resolution SSEP Program banner 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.
  • 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 Ave. entrance to the Museum by 8:45 am, each day, for a program start at 9:00 am.


3.  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 science conference at the Museum, for students taking part in a ground-breaking U.S. National STEM initiative, and on the historic final flight of Shuttle Endeavour—without cost—is something we wanted to do.

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


4. SSEP National Conference Schedule

Day 1 – July 6 (Wednesday)

Arrival at Museum

Welcome Keynote Address in Milestones of Flight Gallery
Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Present, and Inspiring the Future:
Human Exploration, the Journey Continues
Jeff Goldstein, Center Director, NCESSE

Magical Time in the Most Visited Museum on Earth BEFORE the Visiting Public Arrives
The Museum’s east side first floor will be open, including major galleries, and the How Things Fly interactive gallery. The Museum’s Education Division will have Explainers on hand, and educators conducting programs at Discovery Stations.

Morning in Moving Beyond Earth Gallery

Introductions and Orientation
Jeff Goldstein, NCESSE
Michael Hulslander, NASM
Harri Vanhala, NCESSE

Oral 1: Team from Ballston Spa, NY
Oral 2: Team from Portland, OR


A Window on Research: The Accidental Observatory
Dr. Tim’s Research from Space
Dr. Timothy Livengood, Senior Research Scientist, NCESSE

Oral 3: Team from Guilford County, NC
Oral 4: Team 1 from El Paso, TX
Oral 5: Team from Canyons, UT

11:45 -11:55
SSEP on the International Space Station
Jeff Goldstein, NCESSE


Poster Presentations by Student Teams to Museum Visitorship in Space Race Gallery

Free Time to Explore Museum


Day 2 – July 7 (Thursday)

Morning in Moving Beyond Earth Gallery

Featured Presentation: Whither the Space Shuttle
Dr. Roger Launius, Senior Curator
Human Spaceflight Collection, NASM
NASA Chief Historian, 1990-2002

Oral 6: Team 2 from El Paso, TX
Oral 7: Team from Zachary, LA

Community Experience: Zachary, LA
Tammy Wood, SSEP Community Program Director, and Circe Bridges, Teacher Facilitator

9:50-10:20 break

A Window on Research: A Hobby Brings Unexpected Opportunities
Dr. Gertrud Konings-Dudin, Assistant Professor of Biology
El Paso Community College

Oral 8: Team from Lincolnwood, IL
Oral 9: Team 3 from El Paso, TX
Oral 10: Team from Jefferson, County, KY

Wrap Up in Moving Beyond Earth Gallery
Parting Thoughts

Getting Situated for Poster Presentations

Poster Presentations by Student Teams to Museum Visitorship in Space Race Gallery

12:30 -1:30

Optional NASM Demos and Tours

Free Time to Explore Museum


5. Presentation Descriptions

Welcome Keynote: Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Present, and Inspiring the Future:
Human Exploration the Journey Continues
Dr. Jeff Goldstein, Center Director [Bio]
National Center for Earth and Space Science Education

We live in a moment in time. It’s the place where the accomplishments of those that came before us meet up with what will be undertaken by future generations. It’s a great place to be, especially if you’re part of the future generation. By learning about the past both in terms of what we know and how we’ve come to know it, and talking to those that work on the frontiers right now, you can choose to shape the future. It’s pretty powerful stuff. Standing on the shoulders of past generations, YOU are now the link between the past and future of human exploration.

Some essays you might read as a family in advance of the Keynote:

The National Air and Space Museum: A celebration of human dreams of flight in air and space.

The Nature of Our ExistenceCelebrating what we know of Earth in a greater space—and that we can know it.

What was it like to live through the flight of Apollo 11—the most historic voyage in the history of the human race?
Yesterday’s Launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Brings Back Memories of Apollo 11

What is it like to meet your hero? What is the nature of human exploration?
An Apollo 11 Personal Story

Featured Presentation: Whither the Space Shuttle
Dr. Roger Launius, Senior Curator [Bio]
Human Spaceflight Collection
Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum
NASA Chief Historian, 1990-2002

This presentation reviews the history and legacy of the Space Shuttle program after thirty years. It suggests that while the shuttle was not an unadulterated success on balance it served a venerable role in spaceflight and deserves an overall positive assessment in history. We find that while the Space Shuttle has a reputation as a mistake it was generally successful. Additionally, the Space Shuttle provided three decades of significant human spaceflight capability and stretched the nature of what could be accomplished in Earth orbit much beyond anything envisioned previously. Most significantly since the American human spaceflight program has always been focused in national prestige, the Space Shuttle served well as a symbol of American technological verisimilitude. Finally, this presentation discusses the retirement of the Space Shuttle and possibilities for the future of human spaceflight.


A Window on Research: The Accidental Observatory
Dr. Timothy Livengood, Senior Research Scientist [Bio]
National Center for Earth and Space Science Education

In 2005, NASA launched an amazing spacecraft mission called Deep Impact, which did its job to bang into a comet (well, part of the mission did) and study what comets are made from, then the rest of the spacecraft sailed on into space, undamaged and ready for more. NASA called for the scientific community to suggest new ways to squeeze some use out of a perfectly good spacecraft orbiting the Sun with nothing to do. This is the story of how inventive scientists and engineers conceived a new life for an old spacecraft, to explore our solar system and to chart a path towards someday exploring other solar systems.


A Window on Research: A Hobby Brings Unexpected Opportunities
Dr. Gertrud Konings-Dudin, Assistant Professor of Biology
El Paso Community College

Practicing a hobby is a good way to learn in a playful, relaxing manner. A hobby helps accumulate real world information that may become very valuable when the opportunity comes. This was the case when my hiking hobby and what I leaned from it turned into a long-lasting fruitful scientific exploration that I never dreamed of getting involved in, the search for plants that could survive the extreme conditions in a lunar pioneer plant habitat.


6. Oral Presentations

Oral 1. Ballston Spa, New York

Milton Terrace South Elementary School, Ballston Spa Central School District

Title: The Development of Tilapia Eggs in Space

Selected for Flight

Co-Principal Investigators: Jordyn Catherall, Kate Yager, and Dana Betti
Teacher Facilitator: Angelo D’Annibale, 5th Grade Teacher

Abstract: The purpose of this experiment was to test the development of Tilapia Eggs in space. The hypothesis is was that microgravity that the eggs would be exposed to in space may cause the eggs to develop differently than they would on Earth where gravity is present. Tilapia eggs typically hatch in 5 days when the temperature is approximately 85 degrees. Out control samples did not develop. However, three out of the five experimental eggs developed..


Oral 2. Portland Oregon

Jackson Middle School, Portland Public Schools

Title: Lysozyme Protein Crystal Growth in Microgravity

Selected for Flight

Co-Principal Investigators: Celeste Brown and Josephine Smith
Teacher Facilitator: Jennifer Kelley
Scientific Advisor: Dr. Eric Gouaux, Oregon Health and Science University

Abstract: We chose to grow lysozyme crystals in space because it can be used as a drug target for cancer. We wanted to do research that could help our friend Brittany who is dying of cancer. The goal of the experiment was to discover if the crystals grow better in micro-gravity. We compared crystal growth between conditions on earth and on the shuttle. Our analysis consisted of comparing the size of the crystals using x-ray diffraction.


Oral 3. Guilford County, North Carolina

Mendenhall Middle School, Guilford County Schools, Northern Region

Title: The Effect of Microgravity on Brine Shrimp

Selected for Flight

Principal Investigators: Alex Atwater and Bailey Weikel-Feekes
Co-Investigators: Caleb Dillard, Anna Freundt, Maggie Sellers, Ryan Daw, Zach Mulholland, Iain Rice, and Clay Hering
Teacher Facilitator: Lenny Sue French, MS Ed, Sixth Grade Science Teacher

Abstract: Mendenhall Middle School was the representative for Northern Guilford County, NC aboard the STS-134. Our experiment; “The Effect of Microgravity on Brine Shrimp Development” was designed to test what effect, if any, gravitational forces have on development of a living organism.


Oral 4. El Paso, Texas

El Paso Community College Transmountain Campus (EPCC)
Transmountain Early College High School (TMECHS)

Title: The Effect of Microgravity on Biofilm Formation by E. coli on Polystyrene Particles

Selected for Flight

Co-Principal Investigators: Michelle Holguin, Diana Pahman, and Jarisma Rodriguez
Collaborator: Gloria Balderas de Anchondo
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Maria E. Alvarez, Professor of Biology

Abstract: Bacterial biofilms are communities of bacteria surrounded with a slime-like substance that creates a protective shield and makes them resistant to a variety of environmental factors. The objective of our project is to determine if biofilm formation by Escherichia coli on polystyrene plastic particles is influenced by microgravity conditions. Experiments were conducted by incubating 500-mm polystyrene beads and E. coli suspensions under microgravity and normal gravity conditions. Biofilm formation was analyzed using Scanning Electron Microscopy.


Oral 5. Canyons School District, Utah

Hillcrest High School

Title: Microgravity’s effects on morphagens in common species

Selected for Flight

Principal Investigators: Nikos Liodakis, Megan Dolle, and Keltson Howell
Collaborator: Phil Talbot
Teacher Facilitator: Jonathan Miller, Head Physics Teacher

Abstract: The specimen Xenopus Laevis (African clawed frog) was expected to develop in microgravity with deformities in the nervous system, identified by enlarged eyes and an arched spinal column (an absence of gravity alters the diffusion of chemicals in a biological system, including the morphagen activin). However, the results are inconclusive, as the Xenopus Laevis embryo failed to develop. While other eggs in the same spawn developed regularly, the returned sample shows no signs of growth.


Oral 6. El Paso, Texas

El Paso Community College Transmountain Campus (EPCC)
Transmountain Early College High School (TMECHS)

Title: Antimicrobial Effect of Honey in E. coli growth

Honorable Mention Finalist

Co-Principal Investigators: Nora Ortega, Carla Stevenson, Paul Swopes, and Perla Lozano
Collaborator: Gloria Balderas de Anchondo
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Gertrud Konings-Dudin Assistant Professor of Biology

Abstract: Honey was traditionally popular among civilizations which used it as a medicine to alleviate many diseases. Recent evidence suggests that honey can indeed be used in the treatment of different pathologies caused by bacteria. The objective of this project is to determine the effect of microgravity on the antimicrobial properties of honey. The Minimal Inhibitory Concentration Assay (MIC) was used to study the antimicrobial effect of natural honey on E. coli K-12.


Oral 7. Zachary, Louisiana

Copper Mill Elementary School, Zachary Community School District

Title: What Is the Effect of Microgravity on the Development of Murine Myoblasts?

Selected for Flight

Co-Principal Investigators: Alexis Albert, Grace Dry, Madison Russell, Leanne Sorrel
Co-Investigators: Tyler Jackson, Jake O’Brien
Teacher Facilitator: Circe Bridges

Abstract: Zachary Community School District students investigated the effect of microgravity on the development of murine myoblast. Working with Louisiana State University professors, Copper Mill Elementary students prepared samples and compared glucose levels with sample levels exposed to microgravity. The team rationalized that higher levels of glucose consumption indicate increased levels of cell development. Based on the sample results, the team concluded that microgravity had no effect on the development of the myoblast samples.


Oral 8. Lincolnwood, Illinois

Lincolnwood School District 74

Title: Efficiency of Microencapsulation in Microgravity as Compared to Gravity

Selected for Flight

Principal Investigator: Brandon Gligor
Teacher Facilitator: Sharon Churchwell, NBCT, Science Teacher & Gifted Educational Specialist

Abstract: This experiment combined a 4% aqueous solution of the drug ciprofloxacin with a 10% aqueous solution of the coating polyvinylpyrrolidone in low Earth orbit to investigate the process of microencapsulation in microgravity. The combined ciprofloxacin and polyvinylpyrrolidone solution from the space sample and a similar solution from a ground-truth sample were analyzed with a scanning electron microscope and thermogravimetric analysis to evaluate the efficiency of the coating process and the extent agglomeration was observed.


Oral 9. El Paso, Texas

El Paso Community College Transmountain Campus (EPCC)
Transmountain Early College High School (TMECHS)

Title: Investigating Antibiotic Susceptibility Profile Variation between E. coli K-12 Exposed to Microgravity and Full Gravity Environments using a SIEMENS Micro-Scan® Automated Bacterial Identification System

Honorable Mention Finalist

Co-Principal Investigators: Cassandra Avila, Megan Gonzales, Derick Kalt, and Carlos Monserrat
Collaborators: Dr. Violeta Chavez, Gloria Balderas de Anchondo, and Javier Delgado
Teacher Facilitator: Dr. Maria E. Alvarez, Professor of Biology

Abstract: Escherichia coli is a bacterium found in the intestinal tract of humans and animals that can develop resistance to antibiotics. Previous studies have found that exposure to cosmic radiation and microgravity environments can alter bacterial DNA and possibly antibiotic susceptibility. The objective of our project is to study the antibiotic susceptibility patterns of E. coli K-12 after exposure to microgravity and space conditions. The bacteria were studied using a SIEMENS Micro-Scan® automated bacterial identification system.


Oral 10. Jefferson, County, Kentucky

Academy @Shawnee, Jefferson County Public Schools

Title: The Effect of Micro-Gravity on the Viability of Lactobacillus GG

Selected for Flight

Principal investigator: Ashleigh Keister
Co-Investigators: Ben Bommarrito, Alenandro Cid, Miranda Fitz, Cody Harral, and Amber Walters
Teacher Facilitator: Imogen Herrick

Abstract: We designed an experiment to test the viability of the bacterium Lactobacillus GG, a probiotic. Lactobacillus is used as a preservative to keep dairy products fresh. It is present in yogurt and assists our body with digestion. The procedure consists of exposing Lactobacillus to micro-gravity and counting colonies when it returned to Earth. This will allow the determination of the viability of Lactobacillus. Understanding the viability of probiotics in micro-gravity can promote longer space missions without risking the health of astronauts.


7. Hotel

The hotel we are recommending for the Conference is the Holiday Inn Washington-Capitol. It is just 2 blocks from the National Air and Space Museum.

For July 5-8:

1) rack rates from the Web:

  • Best price: $179.99/night with advance purchase (prepaid for the whole stay)
  • Best flexible: $199/night (no cancelation penalty until the night before)
  • AAA rate (same as flexible but must have an AAA card): $186/night

2) The hotel has done a “courtesy block” for NCESSE:

  • rate $169/night
  • our group code to be used when making reservations over the phone or on the Web: SSE
  • reservations must be made by May 23, after this date the rooms will be released to the public
  • the hotel can extend the rate for at least some of the rooms to the July 4 weekend
  • sets aside 25 rooms at a time; if these rooms are all gone when you try to make a reservation, let us know: the hotel can open another block of rooms, if any are still available. It is best to make your reservations early, though, and definitely by the reservation deadline to take advantage of this special rate

There are many other hotels not too far from the National Mall. Also note that the Museum is just two blocks from the L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station.

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.