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Samoan student rockets ahead to achieving dream

Samoan student rockets ahead to achieving dream

  • 06 Jun 2023
by Sione Faoo from The Otara Kai Village v2

(Picture caption: Danielle Tupuanai Viliamu is off to Space Camp at NASA, Alabama, USA. Photo credit: Sione Faoo from The Otara Kai Village.) 

Tangaroa College student Danielle Tupuanai Viliamu says if or when she travels to space, she will proudly fly her Samoan flag on the moon.

Danielle, 16, is part of a group of future scientists from Ōtara, who are heading to NASA in Alabama to study space exploration and STEM at the US Space and Rocket Center.

The 2023 Advance Space Camp – Expedition 49 opens in August and 16-strong cohort from South Auckland is thrilled about the once-in-a-lifetime  opportunity, organised by local charity Community Builders NZ Trust (CBNZ) through the Ōtara Youth Hub.

Cadets will engage in all areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) over in a seven-day camp sharing dorms, eating, and socialising with other young people from around the globe.

With a keen interest in the sciences, Danielle received a Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) Toloa Secondary School Scholarship for 2023.

Danielle says she is very excited to see the physics and science about rocket ship operations and the biology of space.

“I haven’t decided on a future career yet so I’m hoping this will help to expand my mind and find my career path,” she adds.

The Space Camp daily sessions will be interactive, promoting STEM learning as well as team building, leadership, problem-solving and confidence.

Trainees experience a variety of astronaut training exercises, engineering challenges and team-building activities all culminating in an extended-duration simulated space mission.

After the expedition, the group has three days to explore Alabama before returning home to Aotearoa with a kete full of knowledge to steer them into the next step of their STEM journey.

Each cadet has been tasked with raising $5000 toward their expedition - half of that amount is the starting rate for entry to the Space Camp. 

Organisers awarded MPP's sponsorship of one cadet to Alabama to Danielle, while Spark Foundation, and Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi are also providing support for cadets.

However, more financial aid is needed to get everyone to Space Camp.

Givealittle page has been set up to help reach their total goal of $80,000.

Follow the cohort’s journey to NASA on the Ōtara Youth Hub Facebook page.