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 seventh annual SSEP National Conference at the Museum on Wednesday, June 28 and Thursday, June 29, 2017.

All students and student teams that were engaged in SSEP experiment design and proposal writing—across the last 5 SSEP flight opportunities (SSEP Missions 7 through 11 to ISS)—are invited to attend their conference with their teachers and school administrators, and 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 truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for attendees.

The conference was also scheduled before July 4th in the nation’s capital, so that attendees might be able to stay on and watch the 4th of July fireworks on the National Mall. This year we unfortunately could not schedule the conference any closer to July 4th than June 28-29, since the conference cannot be conducted on a weekend.


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 2017 Conference should 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. If you do not know the name and contact information for your Community Program Director send us an email via the Contact page as soon as possible.

NCESSE is able to make available VIP seats to representatives of SSEP strategic and national partner organizations, though VIP seating is limited. Partner organizations are asked to send us an email via the Contact page 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 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 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.  
  • Each Team will conduct a poster presentation on the same day as their oral presentation.

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.

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.

More details regarding expectations and deadlines are found on the 2017 SSEP National Conference 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.

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.

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