I first became involved with my local Rotary District in Australia, District 9780, two years ago as I started the Ambassadorial Scholarship application process. To prepare for moving abroad I attended pre-departure information sessions as well as the 2010 district conference. I also traveled to clubs within my sponsor district giving talks on the scholarship and my plans for my time in the United States. In the lead up to my scholarship period I was given immense support from Rotarians in both my sponsor district and in my host district. I was in contact with my two host councilors before I arrived in the United States. They provided me with a wealth of information about the area, met me at the airport and assisted me in getting settled at Stanford. I could never have dreamed of a warmer welcome.
 

The weekend after I arrived at Stanford my host district arranged an arrival seminar for all of their inbound Ambassadorial Scholars. It was good to meet the other scholars and some of the local Rotarians. Since this session I have enjoyed attending many meetings of my host club, the Palo Alto University Rotary Club, as well as some meetings of nearby clubs, the district Avenues of Service and a Stanford Rotaract meeting. I had the privilege to speak on behalf of the inbound scholars at the District Avenues of Service. I remain in close contact with my Host Rotarians who are a constant source of comfort,
providing me with advice and friendship.  I see both of them regularly and am very grateful for the way that they have welcomed me into their lives.

I am studying a Masters of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University. I am working towards obtaining a Master's Degree by coursework to gain a deeper understanding of the scientific principles behind spacecraft design. In addition to this deeper theoretical understanding, I hope to get some hands on experience with rocket design and construction.

I have become involved with the propulsion group at Stanford, who are primarily focused on hybrid rocket propulsion. My research currently centers on a unique form of hybrid rocket propulsion that utilises paraffin wax as a fuel. Such rockets are predicted to help reduce the environmental impacts of rocketry.

Over the summer quarter I am planning to spend time at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where I will be working within their propulsion group. I will hopefully assist with work on the next Mars rover to be launched later this year. I am very excited to be able to actively contribute to current space exploration efforts. This is the type of research that I have always dreamed of. I want to make the most of all of these phenomenal opportunities whilst I am in the USA.

Over the last 6 months I have become involved with an educational program called Young Astronauts, which is organized by a group of Stanford Aeronautics and Astronautics students. Over the course of a year we run a series of classes for students in grades three and four, teaching them everything that they need to know to become an astronaut. I have been amazed by the ability of primary school students to understand and apply scientific principles. After our first class we had kids explaining to us that rockets fly because of Newton's third law and telling us how to increase the thrust of the rocket. The classes are full of clever demonstrations and are really interactive. As the year has progressed I have seen the students becoming visibly more excited about science and engineering. I am hoping to implement a program like this in Australia when I return.

Life in the San Francisco Bay area is busy but very stimulating. It is so exciting to be studying at Stanford, surrounded by Silicon Valley with NASA just down the road. I have tried to get involved with all of the incredible opportunities on offer whilst I am in the area. I had the incredible fortune to speak with Andy Thomas last quarter, receiving much needed advice and guidance. I have attended a number of talks and I participated in the CHI conference, an interdisciplinary environmental conference for Stanford scholars.

In addition to getting to know the San Francisco area I have visited some other parts of the United States. I traveled to New York City in November and loved getting to see the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Museum of Natural History and Central  Park. I visited Philadelphia and enjoyed learning a little about American history at the Liberty Bell and Valley Forge National Park. For spring Break I was lucky enough to head to Hawaii with some friends from school and there found myself swimming with wild dolphins. Growing up by the beach in Australia, I never thought that I would have the opportunity to play with dolphins of their own free will. Swimming with them was a humbling and thrilling experience.

I recently also had the chance to fly an airplane for the first time in my life. Some time ago I mentioned in passing to a friend from the Palo Alto University  Rotary Club that one day I would love to experience flying a plane. A month later I had an email out of the blue telling me that they had organized for me to fly and a few days after the email I had the privilege of watching the sunset over the San Francisco bay from the cockpit of a Cessna.