Leading Australia’s youth into space
Henry Wu is on a mission to inspire the next generation of space explorers. His passion for space led him to found the student-led, not-for-profit Australian Students Space Organisation (ASSO) that provides education opportunities for secondary school students through scientific experiments and events.
ASSO gets students excited about space by providing learning opportunities like science experiments and access to talks from leading scientists, such as astrophysicist DrAlan Duffy. He also worked with Think Inc., an organisation that runs talks and events with world-class intellectuals, to hold a state-wide lecture for students at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre with the Director of Columbia University’s Center for Theoretical Physics, Professor Brian Greene.
As Co-President of the Rotary Interact Club at Camberwell Grammar School, Henry encourages leadership development for students at his school through collaboration. Under his guidance, the Rotary Interact Club has raised $10,000 for charity this year.
As Prefect for Faith and Social Justice, Henry leads a group of students in their spiritual and personal development as part of his school’s Christian ‘Mustard Group.’ He was also a Corporal in Camberwell Grammar’s Army Cadets Unit; as a member during 2014-2016, Henry led junior cadets in their training, helping them to learn first aid, navigation and field craft skills, while nurturing each student’s emerging leadership qualities.
Henry’s achievements have been widely acknowledged in his school and community. Jessica Varalla from educational consultancy Crimson Education says, ‘Henry’s positive impact on other students and community-mindedness has been exceptional’. Gordon Wilson from Camberwell Grammar describes Henry as ‘…a young man with a firm passion for science and engineering whose interests have seen him participate in a range of activities that engage others and help them dream of future technological achievements’.
The VCAA caught up with Henry to learn more about his impressive work.
What ignited your interest in space exploration and why did you create the Australian Students Space Organisation (ASSO)?
I saw the film Apollo 13 in Year 8 and it made me think about having a career as an astronaut. Two years later I attended Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama and became completely hooked.
With no formal space organisation (like NASA) in Australia, ASSO was born out of a desire to help other like-minded students pursue their passion and dreams of space exploration.
How has ASSO encouraged students to learn more and become active participants in space exploration?
In ASSO, in addition to the talks from scientists, we have done all kinds of hands-on activities, such as experimented with constructing and testing our own heat shields, and launched (small!) rockets built by students.
I use ASSO’s Instagram account to reach 16,000 followers with images and facts about space exploration. The account has caught the attention of the Kennedy Space Centre, Business Insider Australia, CSIRO and the United Nations Association of Australia – who offered me the chance to host a live Q&A event on Twitter with a former NASA astronaut!
ASSO has also partnered with IMAX in Melbourne to promote space-related events for VCE students and helped promote the AstroLight festival on behalf of Scienceworks.
Tell us about the Rotary Interact Club and the events you helped organise to raise money for charity.
The Rotary Interact Club provides students with the opportunity to make a difference through charities. As co-president, I ‘lead from behind’, supporting and encouraging younger students within our leadership group to coordinate events to raise money for these initiatives.
I’ve played a key role in organising and promoting several fundraisers this year, including two movie nights, a casual clothes day, sausage sizzles and a badminton social. We managed to raise $5,000 each for We Can’t Wait, an organisation aiming to improve sanitation in India, and the Lighthouse Foundation, which tackles youth homelessness in Victoria. I am proud of the support that I have provided to younger students and I hope they will continue to lead by example and build upon our efforts in the years to come.
What kind of leadership do you hope to foster in other young people?
I believe in leadership that encourages creativity and innovation. In the Rotary Interact Club I guide students to ‘think outside the box’ and take a chance on the ideas and interests they feel strongly about.
I hope that the leadership I’ve demonstrated through ASSO inspires young people to pursue their dreams, and have the courage to ask for the opportunities they want. The worst thing people can say to you is no, so ask anyway!
What are your plans for the future?
Next year I am going to study Aerospace Engineering and Commerce with the aim to work for the new Australian space agency one day. I also want to continue running space-related talks and activities at my school next year, and hope that when the Australian space agency is running that ASSO will be able to work with them on youth outreach programs.