Award Recipients Leverage the ISS to Inspire Students


Here at the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory, we work with a network of more than 2,000 educators across the world to help promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and engage students in space station science. Space Station Explorers (SSE) is a community of educators and organizations that use the unique platform of the ISS to provide valuable educational experiences for their students, such as programming robots on the ISS and the chance to design an experiment to fly to the space station .

Educators are the ones who work tirelessly to breathe life into lesson plans and strive to make SSE partner programs engaging and accessible. As such, the ISS National Lab STEM Education team would like to congratulate three educators who have been selected to receive awards based on their utilization of SSE partner programs. These individuals have demonstrated excellence in their efforts to engage students in SSE educational programming and to help other educators bring ISS-related activities into their classrooms. As such, we are honoring these three educators with the Space Station Explorer Exceptional Educator Award and the first-ever Tony So Excellence in Education Award.

Space Station Explorers Exceptional Educator Award

This award recognizes educators who have done outstanding work using ISS-related programs to engage students in STEM subjects and careers. We would like to recognize Becky Busby and Mary Vaughn as our newest Exceptional Educator Award winners.

Busby and Vaughn earned this award through their creativity in leveraging space station educational resources in the classroom. As members of our Space Station Ambassador Program, the two educators were nominated by our SSE partners for their outstanding use of SSE programs.

Tony So Excellence in Education Award
Earlier this year, we lost a dear friend and educational partner, Tony So. He was not only the co-founder of—a STEM education company and SSE partner program that aims to cultivate the next generation of scientists and engineers—but also a passionate educator whose kindness, thoughtfulness, and intelligence permeated every interaction he had with others. So’s impact continues to be a source of inspiration to all who knew him.

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Our team created the Tony So Excellence in Education Award to not only honor his legacy but also recognize educators that serve with the same knowledge and kindness that So demonstrated throughout his career and life. We want to encourage educator Lauren Parker, who has been named the first recipient of the Tony So Excellence in Education Award.

Parker is a middle school science teacher who has inspired her students to reach for the stars by igniting their creativity and encouraging them to participate in STEM activities. Using SSE programming, she helps her students gain knowledge and confidence by contributing to real science being carried out on the space station. For these achievements, we are proud to honor her as the first-ever recipient of the Tony So Excellence in Education Award.

All three of these educators will be presented with their awards in July at our upcoming ISS Research and Development Conference in Washington, DC, July 25-28, 2022.

For questions regarding Space Station Explorers, the Space Station Ambassador Program, and how educators can be eligible for these awards, please email

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