Supporting Significant Steps for STEM & Giant Leaps for Student Space Research

When the Pennsauken School District announced that it wanted to adopt the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) as an integral component of its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiative, UTRS was eager to support the District in any way possible. To that end, for two of the three years that SSEP has been in existence in the Pennsauken school district, UTRS has proudly served as a sponsor.

The 2013-2014 academic year marks the fifth mission set to take flight to the International Space Station (ISS) since SSEP’s creation. Overseen by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), SSEP immerses hundreds of fifth- through twelfth-grade students nationwide in all aspects of research, and provides them with the opportunity to be regarded as real scientists and engineers who conduct significant space research. For students of Pennsauken High School and Howard M. Phifer Middle School, this program has not only provided a valuable learning experience, but it also champions students’ innovative thinking skills—a proficiency that STEM lends itself to more often than not.

Of the 300-400 students from Pennsauken who participated, about 40-60 proposals were accepted from the student teams. SSEP’s selection process for ISS experimentation is extremely rigorous due to the limited amount of space available aboard the station. Using the same selection processing procedures as NASA, a Proposal Review Board meets at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to select a flight experiment from each community. The students from Pennsauken who were selected for flight in SSEP’s Mission 2 were Michelle Wan and Lacy Smith of Pennsauken High School, for their experiment of the effects of uric acid on bone deterioration within a microgravity environment compared with that on Earth. Selected for flight in SSEP’s Mission 3 were eighth-grade students Vanessa Lugo, Nikki Markakis, Alexandra Pasamihalis, and Madison Pignatelli from Howard Phifer Middle School, for their experiment on the effects of microgravity on eggshells and vinegar.

UTRS is proud to sponsor such diverse, innovative thinking by eager minds for Pennsauken Public School District’s participation in SSEP’s Mission 5 to the ISS. By supporting this stellar example of fostering STEM education in schools across the country, we ensure that our nation maintains its role as the world’s leader in science and technology research.

Additional Information:

To view more about the SSEP program, follow this link:

For a complete list of Pennsauken’s finalists and honorable mentions from Mission 2, see Community #6.

For a complete list of Pennsauken’s finalists and honorable mentions from Mission 3, see Community #12.