Alice Drive Middle School, a nationally accredited STEM school, is one of 31 sites selected throughout the nation and Canada to participate in the Mission 12 Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP).  During Mission 12, students will spend time during STEM classes in learning about experimentation, collaborating with partners on research teams, and in designing research proposals for microgravity experiments.   In November the SSEP Step 2 Review Board, a national team of professional researchers and distinguished STEM educators, will select the actual experiment to represent Alice Drive Middle School on the 2018 Mission 12 spaceflight to the International Space Station.  In addition, all students will be invited to enter a mission patch design competition.  One of their patches will be chosen to ride along on the spaceflight.

According to Jeannie Pressley, principal of Alice Drive Middle School, “This is real authentic STEM research preparing our students for the future workforce.  Collaboration, problem solving, project based learning, and proposal writing are all skills needed for success in high school and beyond.  This really is rocket Science.”  This sentiment is echoed by Lori Smith, Coordinator of Science for Sumter School District, “Learning and activities built around the microgravity experiment will offer a valuable opportunity to engage students in problem based learning.  Students will design their own experiment, then conduct the experiment on Earth while the same experiment is conducted by astronauts on the International Space Station. That is an amazing application of real-world science!”

The funding provided from business partners and community foundations such as The Central Carolina Foundation is appreciated and essential to getting the project off the ground.  Ms. Pressley adds, “The cost of providing this unique experience to our students is no small matter.  We appreciate the support received so far, and we welcome aboard anyone who would like to join us!”

The SSEP is spearheaded by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, a non-profit 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 Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (or 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 in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.