One Giant Leap Australia Foundation’s Aerospace Academy is playing a crucial role engaging New South Wales’ regional youth with Australian aviation and space industries. The endless career possibilities offered by the sector extend beyond commercial airlines and military jets; they encompass transportation, defense, communication, safety, efficiency, and sustainability. Communicating that the sector is a viable career option for regional school students is a challenge that Jackie Carpenter, Director of One Giant Leap Australia Foundation, embraces with enormous energy and tenacity.
Aerospace Academy is a free, school holiday program, supported by the NSW Government’s Office for Regional Youth. The program is dedicated to providing aerospace education and fostering a deeper understanding of aerospace concepts for young people. “The impact of this industry relies on its ability to push the boundaries of technology and knowledge, which also extends to the workforce of tomorrow, the nation’s young people”, says Ms Carpenter. “By equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge, Aerospace Academy addresses the challenges faced by the industry while nurturing scientific curiosity, critical thinking, problem-solving abilities and leadership”, she says.
Following the COVID restrictions, the NSW Office for Regional Youth recognised the importance of engaging young minds in non metropolitan areas. It also recognised the track record of One Giant Leap Australia Foundation and has pledged support of the program well into 2024. Jackie Carpenter says, “Aerospace Academy ensures that students from regional communities have equal opportunities to pursue their dreams in engineering, astrophysics, and other related disciplines that they may not always have access to in the same way that young people in cities might”. The creation of a strong and capable STEM workforce is crucial for driving innovation, economic growth, and tackling global challenges in the future. However, there are several education challenges that need to be addressed in order to ensure the development of such a workforce.
One major challenge is the lack of engagement among students in STEM subjects. Many students perceive these subjects as inaccessible, leading to a decline in enrollment rates. To address this issue, there is a need for innovative teaching methods that make STEM subjects more engaging and relevant to real-world problems. Incorporating experiential activities, project-based learning, and industry partnerships can help students see the practical applications of STEM knowledge.
Another challenge surrounds the lack of diversity within the STEM workforce. Often stereotypes and biases can discourage certain groups from pursuing careers in these areas. “To overcome this challenge, it is essential to promote inclusivity and diversity in STEM education by providing equal opportunities and resources for all students,“ says Jenna McCarthy, Education Outreach Manager for One Giant Leap Australia. However, keeping up with rapid technological advancements poses other challenges for traditional educational institutions. The curriculum needs to be regularly updated to reflect current industry trends and emerging technologies. Additionally, teachers themselves need adequate training and professional development opportunities to stay updated with the latest developments. The Aerospace Academy experiences offer a nimble support mechanism to these disciplines.
Aerospace Academy offers a range of exciting programs designed to ignite a passion for aerospace and STEM fields within students. The program is a mobile operation which runs over three days in each regional location. Two space focused days are offered where students get to design and build rockets, use virtual reality and learn all about the emerging space industry in Australia and throughout the world. The aviation day focuses on atmospheric flight, aircraft, aerodynamics and more. One Giant Leap Australia Foundation has a deep knowledge reserve with regards to flight. The experience and legacy left by late Director, Robert Carpenter (OAM) cannot be underestimated. Bob (as he was known), an RAAF veteran, was instrumental in the development of the organisation’s programming. “In some ways these programs are a testament to Bob’s knowledge base and experience,” says Jenna McCarthy. “Today, we are delivering programs to young people that are like no other in the country.” Additionally, the program provides students with a glimpse into the life of an aerospace professional. These free programs not only equip students with knowledge but also instill a new focus and vision for their future.
Aerospace Academy is a transformative experience with a strong emphasis on collaboration and leadership. Former students return as mentors to help deliver workshops to a new generation. Nicola Baker recently joined One Giant Leap Australia on the road. Nicola recently told ABC television; “it’s been amazing just seeing the girls’ faces light up watching another girl teach them how to do this stuff and knowing that there is a spot for them in this area”. Aerospace Academy also introduces participants to industry professionals. “They gain access to invaluable mentorship and firsthand insights into the aerospace industry,” says Jackie Carpenter. “Last week we had a former employee of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories working with us to deliver workshops in Port Macquarie, Taree and Port Stephens.”
Of course the best measure of success is the lasting impact on students’ academic and personal lives. As one parent remarked, “without the opportunity of having these workshops in our local community, my child would not have been able to participate. This program is extremely beneficial for the (our region) and should be expanded to allow for greater numbers of young Australians to participate and curate the interest for a career and in science”.
With the support of government and local communities, the Aerospace Academy workshops will continue to impart knowledge and skill as well as build student confidence and sense of self throughout NSW (and hopefully further) well into the future.
To find out more about Aerospace Academy or register a participant, visit;
Jackie Carpenter Managing Director – One Giant Leap Australia Foundation
0412 326 509 firstname.lastname@example.org