First student ambassadors to lead young people into STEM careers

NINE teenagers from around NSW gathered at One Giant Leap Australia headquarters in South Windsor this week for a four-day 'camp', during which the kids undertook leadership training to become the first group of One Giant Leap Australia student ambassadors.

The group, which included two Hawkesbury High School kids, along with others travelling from areas including Albury, Wagga Wagga and Sydney, stayed at the home of One Giant Leap Australia directors Jackie and Bob Carpenter who run the One Giant Leap Australia Foundation, helping kids from around the country attend Space Camp in America and built their STEM skills.

Up-skilling: Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston, Bob and Jackie Carpenter with this year's One Giant Leap Australia Student Ambassadors at the Carpenter's house at South Windsor. Picture: Sarah Falson

Up-skilling: Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston, Bob and Jackie Carpenter with this year's One Giant Leap Australia Student Ambassadors at the Carpenter's house at South Windsor. Picture: Sarah Falson

Mrs Carpenter said all nine students - ranging from Years 8 to 12 at high school - had previously attended Space Camp using funding from One Giant Leap Foundation.

"This student ambassador program is an off-shoot of Space Camp, and they are staying at our house to build their leadership capabilities," Mrs Carpenter said.

"The idea is to join together for a reunion and to work out what we can do to get other kids to the next Space Camp."

One Giant Leap is dedicated to building-up the skills of children and teenagers in the areas of STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - to prepare them for the vocations of the future.

The Carpenters are both concerned about the workforce of the future, and have dedicated One Giant Leap to ensuring students are given 'out of the box' opportunities to learn and provide input into their education, beyond what they learn at school.

"We want to up-skill Hawkesbury kids for the jobs of the future," said Mrs Carpenter.

"We teach skill-sets including collaborating and critical thinking, preparing them for jobs in the areas of robotics and space."

When the Gazette visited South Windsor, the kids were finishing off a robot challenge, for which they were tasked with coming up with scenarios in which robots could be applied as educational tools in the classroom.

Later in the day, an inspirational video hook-up was scheduled with a NASA JPL earth scientist.

The previous day, they had learned to fly drones and radio-controlled aircraft at the Hawkesbury Model Air Sports Field at Vineyard, where Mr Carpenter is president.

Later, they visited a site in Scheyville where the Carpenters plan to develop a local centre of excellence for Space Camp in Australia.

When asked what he got out of his 2019 tour to Space Camp, Sam, 14 years old from Hawkesbury High School, said "every single corner" of the trip was surprising.

"You won't believe how much fun you have and the friends you make. I went with some friends I wasn't so confident with at school, and the experience has given me more confidence - for example in swimming, I want to swim the English Channel later in the year."

Aidan, 15, also from Hawkesbury High, said: "Before going to Space Camp in 2018 I was very nervous and shy. It's given me more confidence."

Coco, 15, from Newcastle, said it was "really fun" being involved in the student ambassador project.

"I do well at school, especially in maths and science, but coming here and doing things that aren't in the curriculum is really exciting. We're all interested in the same thing and want to be here," Coco said.

Also involved in the group was Matthew, 17, from Wagga Wagga, an Air Force Cadet who wants to be a pilot when he grows up; as well as Dominic, whose dad is the CO of No 37 Squadron at the RAAF; and Josh, who races drones - he showed us one that can reach 180 kilometres-per-hour in 0.8 seconds.

Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston was also in attendance to meet the kids and chat with the Carpenters about their vision.