Growing up on a small farm in regional New South Wales and attending Dungog Primary and High Schools, I never could have imagined that my passion for learning would one day lead me to the stars. Despite facing discouragement and doubts, I persevered, and today, I am an award-winning educator and a recent recipient of the prestigious Winston Churchill Fellowship.

My educational journey began with public education and the New South Wales Department of Education. As the first in my family to attend university, I felt an obligation to be successful in my chosen field. Eventually I graduated with an Education degree conferred with first degree honours, then completed a PhD in Engineering, and recently was honoured with a University of Newcastle Alumni Award for National Leadership. I’ve dedicated my career to helping young people achieve their goals and promoting STEM education across Australia.

The highlight of my journey thus far has been the completion of Winston Churchill Fellowship this year, that was made possible by a Park Family scholarship. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity allowed me to visit eight US states, exploring various NASA sites, Lockheed Martin and Boeing facilities, and numerous museums, including multiple Smithsonian sites. I even had the honour of presenting at the 2023 Space Exploration Educators Conference (SEEC) in Houston and meeting with the National Space Council at the Whitehouse.

During my travels, I connected with remarkable individuals such as Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former US President J.F. Kennedy; Andy Aldrin, son of Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin; and high-ranking officials from NASA, Lockheed Martin and the Australian Space Agency. These relationships have led to partnerships that I hope will greatly impact the Australian education sector.

The lasting impact of this fellowship on my life and career has already been profound. My ultimate goal is the establishment of a National Space and Deep Tech Centre in Sydney that will help inspire the next generation of Australians to pursue careers in space and STEM fields. This centre will also provide industry and university-level training to help meet the demand for 20,000 additional jobs in the space industry and the anticipated 1.2 million STEM-based positions needed in the next decade.

My journey from Dungog to the Whitehouse and beyond has been nothing short of extraordinary. As I reflect on my achievements, I remain committed to using my experiences and the knowledge I have gained through the Winston Churchill Fellowship to create a lasting legacy in STEM education.

To the young people of Australia, let my story serve as a reminder that no dream is too big or too far-fetched. Your passion and dedication can take you to the stars and beyond. Together, we can build a brighter future for Australia, one where our STEM workforce leads the way in space exploration and innovation.

Dr Scott Sleap
STEM Curriculum Support Advisor 7 – 12 | Curriculum Secondary Learners | Curriculum and Reform Directorate
STEM Industry School Partnerships (SISP) Program
Conjoint Senior Lecturer University of Newcastle – College of Engineering, Science and Environment