Thursday, October 12, 2017 - 9:15am to Tuesday, June 5, 2018 - 11:45am
Space Station

Student Experiments to Compete to Go to the International Space Station

Student Experiments to Compete to Go to the International Space Station

This fall, 6th -12th grade science students at the iForward Middle & High Schools, along with students from Grantsburg’s Middle and High Schools will compete for a chance to fly an experiment on the International Space Station.  iForward is recognized as the first K-12 school in Wisconsin and the first totally online school anywhere to participate in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).

Starting in early September, students will learn about forces and motion in science classes, then break into teams to design research proposals for microgravity experiments. In November, a committee of local iForward/Grantsburg scientists will select one proposal from each school to submit to a national selection committee where one proposal will be selected to fly to the International Space Station (ISS). Forty other school communities in the United States are also participating in Mission 12 of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program and will have an experiment selected to fly to the ISS!

Learning and activities around the microgravity experiment will constitute the first quarter science curriculum at the participating schools, and offer a valuable opportunity to engage students in real-world learning experiences, according to Billy Beesley, coordinator of SSEP for the school system. “Gravity affects every biological, chemical, and physical system we encounter each day, so these experiments could provide data with important implications in science, engineering, medical and other fields,” he said. The experiments will consist of a “mix stick,” containing up to three separate fluids. Astronauts will activate the experiment in space by releasing a clamp to mix samples. Students will simultaneously conduct the same experiment on land in order to compare results in low versus earthbound gravity.

Beesley explained that the microgravity project aligns well to the next-generation science curriculum now on the horizon. “Authentic, project-based learning is a great example of the Common Core approach,” he said, referring to the recently adopted curriculum standards that integrate reading, writing, and math instruction into all academic subjects. Students will practice skills in proposal writing and presentation as part of the project.

The SSEP is spearheaded by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, a nonprofit organization that inspires the next generation of scientists and engineers by engaging their natural human impulse to be curious and explore. “If we as a nation are to compete in the 21st century, we must begin to teach science as a process of discovery, like science itself,” said Center Director Dr. Jeff Goldstein, adding that the student competition follows the approach used by NASA to select research projects designed by professional scientists.

The SSEP (http://ssep.ncesse.org) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE). 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 ISS as a National Laboratory.