Space and the mysteries it holds has always fascinated Ioane Fiso, and he dreams of becoming the first Samoan astronaut to reach the next frontier.
The Wellington-based 18-year-old of Samoan and New Zealand European descent currently attends Scots College, and has plans to complete a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) - Mechanical Engineering, and post-graduate study in Aeronautical Engineering, before pursuing a career in the space, research and development, technology and exploration field.
It is a long road ahead, but School Prefect and Leader has a keen interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects, and is focused on reaching his goal – and space – and he is doing everything in his power to make it happen.
In November 2018, Ioane was invited by Sir Richard Taylor to attend a presentation by world renowned Physicist Michio Kaku as a VIP guest, and the following month, he was part of an astrophysics workshop at The Adler Planetarium in Chicago.
Earlier this year, Ioane attended a STEM Accelerator Tour of the United States, involving other STEM students from New Zealand, as well as Australia, Switzerland and Spain.
During this tour, they visited several NASA research and development sites including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Ames Centre, NASA Astrobiology Research Centre and the Atomic Space Centre.
In December, Ioane is heading to Houston to take part in a NASA Case Space School two-week intensive course.
He has been buoyed by his success at the 2019 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards, and being presented with the Fonterra STEM Award recognising his academic achievement in STEM.
Ioane will complete an internship with Fonterra, worth $10,000.
“The opportunity to be a part of the Fonterra team is exciting in terms of the engineering skills I will learn, the people I will meet and get to know and learn from, networking opportunities and the chance to be involved with cutting edge research and development,” Ioane says.
“I appreciate this chance to learn and grow as an aspiring Scientist and Engineer.
“This award will help me set up strong foundations, relationships and to gain experience in the STEM field where I wish to excel and grow.”
Driving Ioane to reach his goal of being the first Samoan in space, is the impact he will have on other Pacific people, he says.
“Our ability, as Pacific Islanders, to navigate and explore fearlessly is well recorded and well known.
“Space is the next frontier for not just Pacific people but for humanity as a whole, and I hope many of our Pacific people will be alongside me, at the forefront of this exciting adventure.
“I intend on being available to mentor and tutor students coming after me to help make this happen.”
Looking ahead long-term, Ioane has hopes to one day contribute to the acceleration of New Zealand’s own Space Agency, with its own Space Programme, which will open doors for Pacific youth following in his footsteps.
“I am a strong believer in the words of Franz Kafka - ‘If it isn’t written, write it yourself’.”