by Renzo Wee (YES 2010-2011, Philippines, placed by AFS-USA in Aurora, IL)
When I was a kid, I was always curious about what was in space. I would ask questions like, “Why and how is the moon always following me wherever I go?” As I grew older, this curiosity became a dream. A dream to become an astronaut or to pursue a career that revolved around space. After many years, this dream has now become a reality. Every day, I get to continue to learn and explore space through my work at STAMINA4Space (Space Technology and Applications Mastery, Innovation and Advancement), a program through the Department of Science and Technology at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Currently, I lead a team of researchers as a project manager for the construction of the first Philippine university-built satellites, all while getting to explore space and pursue my dream.
Before expanding upon my current work, let me share more about the impact the YES program has had on me and how it helped me develop skills to pursue my dreams. During my YES program year, I was hosted by one of the most amazing groups of people I have ever met in my entire life, the Bartoszek family. During one of our earliest conversations, my host family said to me, “Oh! Renzo. We have to expand your horizons.” And expand my horizons, they did. By the end of my YES program year, one of the biggest skills I gained was confidence and perspective. Confidence to trust myself in things that I do. Confidence to accept myself – all my strengths and weaknesses. Confidence to communicate, not only to talk with others but also to relay a message. Relay the things that I want, what I need, what I can accept, what I can tolerate, and what I refuse. And, the confidence to welcome constructive criticism. This confidence gained during my YES program experience has not only helped me during the development of STAMINA4Space satellites but it has helped me in all areas of my life.
The YES program not only gave me confidence, but also expanded my perspective. Perspective to see the world in a new light. When I was in the U.S. I met people from various countries with different views on different matters. By gaining perspective, I realized the potential the Philippines has as a country. My country does have its challenges and issues, but it is also a country with so many natural resources – you can hike and go to the beach all in the same day. It is a country with a booming economy and solving its problems one by one. Knowing that my country can continue to grow, is what has inspired me to make a difference in my community.
For me, making that difference is through my work with the STAMIN4Space satellites. The satellites I work on are called Maya-3 and Maya-4. During the development of the satellites, I handled the structure subsystem ensuring that 1) there will be no mechanical interface issues between various subsystems and 2) that the satellite will survive the launch and space environment. In connection to this, I led the space environment tests of the satellites to simulate the extreme environment that the satellite will be exposed to. The satellites were then sent into space as part of the SpaceX Commercial Resupply Mission-23 and were released from the International Space Station on October 6, 2021. Currently, we are operating the Maya-3 and Maya-4 satellites which are in low earth orbit. I am also in the process of enhancing my knowledge by participating in an international satellite training program. To continue exploring my interest in satellites, I am also finishing my Master’s of Science in Electrical Engineering on the Nanosatellite Engineering track.
Through these projects, I hope that we can use our understanding of space to understand each other and to set aside our differences. Because in space there is no territory. With space we can see that our planet is not even a dot in the universe. And we, the people, are not even a dot in that universe. I feel that the sooner we really understand that, the sooner we’ll take care of each other. I am not just talking about the people but also the planet itself.
Currently, my aim with my research, interests, master’s, and work with STAMIN4Space is to use the benefits of space technology to make the life of people easier and that starts with the proliferation of knowledge. Through the impact of the Maya-3 and Maya-4 satellites, the ones I am currently working on, I have seen the interest in space increase within my fellow countrymen. Now that they have seen that this satellite project is not just another project that will die out, people will see it as something that they can pursue, something that they can invest their time and effort in. This causes a ripple effect, a ripple effect in learning about space. This is what inspires me to take on projects such as the project for STAMINA4Space, to continue this interest in space exploration. Thank you to the United States Department of State and the YES program for all the support and opportunities.