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EPS STEAM learning goes into orbit next year

Aerial view of Kuhlman stadium with water tower in foreground.

Edina Public Schools will have a “classroom” in space in the 2022-23 school year!

The district’s implementation plan for participation in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) has been accepted by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE). Teams of students in grades 5-12 are eligible for the competition, and specific grade level or course level teachers have been identified to implement this project into their classrooms. In addition, any team of Edina Public School students in grades 5-12 may enter the competition outside of their classroom or coursework.

In his acceptance letter, Dr. Jeff Goldstein, center director for NCESSE, praised the district’s plan to embed marquee STEAM programming throughout PreK-12 and its focus on future-ready skills. “SSEP will enhance what EPS is already doing and provide an authentic experience that will motivate learners,” he said.

Beginning in the fall, teams of Edina students will work to develop experiment proposals designed to assess the impact of microgravity on biological, chemical or physical systems. Each proposal will include a control experiment which the students will conduct here on earth. The microgravity version of the experiment will be included in a Mission 17 payload destined for the ISS via SpaceX Dragon, next spring. Astronauts at the ISS will follow student instructions to complete the experiment in space and return results to the students. 

Student experiment design teams will compete for the opportunity to represent Edina in space. In November, a local panel of experts will narrow the proposals to three. Those will advance for review by a national panel in December and final determination of which experiment will make the journey to the ISS.

The Edina Education Fund has pledged financial support for the district’s involvement. It is expected that participation will cost $27,000 to cover the cost of launching the team experiment, astronauts conducting the experiment, and returning the student mini-laboratory back to earth.

The SSEP is intended to involve the whole community. There will be many opportunities for volunteers and mentors to support the students in their design work and to be part of the panel of local judges. A sign up form will soon be available. Also, younger students will have the opportunity to design a mission patch emblematic of Edina’s involvement. Early plans are for the final student research team and their teacher to attend the SSEP National Conference for students in Washington D.C. next summer.

“We are thrilled to offer our students this real-world STEAM learning experience with a project that the entire community can get excited about,” said Randy Smasal, assistant superintendent. “The SSEP will call on our students to use collaboration, creativity and innovation to create a space-worthy experiment – we can’t wait to see what they come up with!”

Smasal said further planning and teacher training will be completed this summer, including curricular content specific to microgravity, and experiment research and design. More details about Edina’s SSEP opportunities will be released soon.