The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory supports advanced research and development (R&D) that improves human knowledge and the quality of life on Earth. Just as importantly, R&D in space is also unique and exciting. Achievements in space-based scientific research and technology development thus hold an amazing power to inspire students, providing a compelling resource for project-based learning and for using modern breakthroughs to illustrate traditional science concepts.
Since 2012, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) has worked to build partnerships with schools and educational organizations interested in leveraging the ISS National Lab for educational initiatives. Today, dozens of education and outreach initiatives reach millions of students with hands-on learning activities associated with the ISS National Lab, improving science literacy in our nation’s youth and ensuring that the workforce of tomorrow can complete in the global high-tech marketplace.
As our latest endeavor in supporting workforce development and science literacy, today we released a research announcement specifically in support of educational programs, products, and public-private partnerships. The ISS National Lab Research Announcement “Leveraging the ISS National Lab to Enable Digital Engagement and Higher Education” is open to U.S.-based entities seeking to establish or expand programs and products for students of all ages, particularly those from underserved communities.
CASIS will host an informational webinar on March 2, 2021 at 1 p.m. EST to review the objectives of the research announcement, discuss educational opportunities related to the ISS National Lab and low Earth orbit, and answer questions from potential proposers. Register here.
We believe that humanity’s shared future in space depends on not only improving the STEM literacy of our youth but also developing opportunities to engage a rising workforce in the role of space-based R&D in knowledge advancement, the economy, and our society. We believe in promoting widespread awareness of the value of low Earth orbit (LEO) platforms for advancing R&D goals and maturing technology, business models, and infrastructure. It is our goal to accelerate the nationwide adoption of these concepts and tenets within K-12 and higher-education instruction, toward a future in which LEO science and technology development is a standard element of programming, infusing all fields of study. Join us in pursuing this vision: Visit www.ISSNationalLab.org/research-on-the-iss/solicitations/nlra2021-4 to learn more about this opportunity!
The ISS National Lab Education Community
Our success in reaching students across the U.S. with ISS National Lab programming has been powered by partnership. Currently, we work with more than 40 organizations of experienced education professionals, who bring the excitement of space-based research to students and educators through standards-aligned curriculum and interdisciplinary programs. Many of these programs target students in grades K-12—in particular, middle school, combating the growing trend for students to lose interest and self-confidence in the sciences as they move into middle and high school. Some programs even launch student investigations sponsored by the ISS National Lab, and a recent analysis of these programs found that they not only achieve authentic learning but also prioritize inclusion: 45% of participants identified as minority and 46% were female.
We also enable hundreds—if not thousands—of undergraduate and graduate students to immerse themselves in laboratory activities as part of the more than 150 flight projects CASIS has awarded to research universities and other academic institutions. Furthermore, we host student and educator interns not just in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields but also in other support fields critical to support the growing marketplace in LEO, such as communications.
Read an Upward article on in-space manufacturing, written by CASIS 2018 summer communications intern Haylie Kasap: “Exotic Glass Fibers From Space: The Race to Manufacture ZBLAN.”
In parallel, ISS National Lab Space Station Ambassadors are now more than 1,000 strong. Through this CASIS-developed professional development program, we empower educators through exclusive training activities, program resources, and online tools. Broadly available resources for educators (beyond Ambassadors) also include searchable databases of partner programs and space-themed lesson plans, a STEM “kit” that compiles “dollar-store science” (just-in-time learning activities that are low- or no-cost), and digital events showcasing ISS STEM programs and activities.
A Research Announcement to Expand Our Reach
Through this latest research announcement, we seek to grow our existing programming, in particular, expanding to more directly include opportunities targeting higher-education communities and to improve digitization and/or online access to space-themed programming for everyone. As a public service enterprise, we seek to maximize the accessibility of scientific knowledge among students and professionals while also enabling the growth of a robust market in LEO by infusing awareness of this emerging market within the higher-education community.
Concepts submitted in response to this announcement must specifically state how proposed initiatives will target and reach underrepresented demographics and must also address at least one of the following goals:
- Expanding the Space Station Explorers Consortium and offerings to increase participation in and/or digital engagement with existing or new partner programs.
- Creating higher-education initiatives that enable students to explore education, background, pathways, and career opportunities associated with space-based R&D or the commercialization of LEO.
- Digitizing space-themed K-12 or higher-education programming.
If you belong to a U.S. entity that cares about K-12 and higher education, workforce development, or professional development related to STEM in general or the emerging LEO economy, visit www.ISSNationalLab.org/research-on-the-iss/solicitations/nlra2021-4 to learn more about this opportunity.
Can you add spice to your successful curricula by incorporating the appeal of modern, tech-savvy advances in science in the exciting environment of space? Are you a content developer looking to expand into the space sector—or take your space-themed programming to new higher-education audiences? Are you eager to take lessons learned from the 2020 forced transition to remote learning platforms (as an emergency response to the global pandemic) and apply them reimagined best practices for engaging students online? Are you a player in the growing LEO economy who wants to help train our youth for success in life and possibly future careers within the LEO market? If you said yes to any of these—or if you are passionate about education and have your own ideas—think about partnering with us, toward a better, thriving, shared future in space.