A graduate who started a charity walk to raise funds for brain cancer research and the former leader of UNSW’s world record-breaking solar car racing team have been named on a triple j list of Australia’s hottest young talent.
UNSW Business graduate Bec Lucas and Sunswift solar racing team’s Hayden Smith made triple j’s 25 under 25 + nailing it guide to the most exciting Australians aged 25 or younger, unveiled earlier this month by the broadcaster.
Bec, a Co-op scholar who has been working at Coca Cola Amatil since graduation, was nominated for her fundraising work following the 2011 death of her father, Tony, to brain cancer.
Tony had been avid supporter of the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, raising funds and awareness about its work in the three years following his diagnosis, and Bec was determined to carry on his legacy.
At age19 and only six weeks after losing her father, Bec appeared before the Foundation’s board to ask that the Tony Lucas Research Grant be established in his name.
“To fund the research grant I started the first Walk for Brain Cancer Manly,” she said of a charity event that now raises about $180,000 every year.
From modest beginnings in 2011, the Walk for Brain Cancer has now expanded to 30 events Australia-wide, netting an impressive $1 million for Cure Brain Cancer each November.
It’s always great to see the hard work you put in recognised, and I hope I might inspire some other people to take up similar opportunities.
In 2013, Bec was named Young Citizen of the Year and Local Woman of the Year (Manly).
She said she was grateful for the nomination and was “overwhelmed” to make it into the top 25.
“I am proud of the work I do as a Cure Brain Cancer Youth Ambassador,” she said.
“Most importantly, the triple j 25 under 25 is a great opportunity for me to talk about brain cancer and generate more exposure and much-needed awareness for the cause.”
Sunswift's Hayden Smith, who is about to enter his Honours year of a Computer Science degree, was also humbled.
“It’s always great to see the hard work you put in recognised, and I hope I might inspire some other people to take up similar opportunities,” he said.
“There’s also a bit of embarrassment; I know there are so many other amazing students, tradespersons, entrepreneurs and visionaries that deserve recognition.”
“University is not some obstacle to overcome. It’s a platform on which you can do some of the most important work of your life.” Hayden Smith. Photo: Daniel Chen
Hayden started his journey with Sunswift as a software developer for the team’s website before being swept up in the excitement of its successful 2014 world record bid and accepting a project manager role.
As well as overseeing the world record, Hayden was charged with managing the push for UNSW Solar Racing’s fifth-generation Sunswift eVe model to be registered as road legal in NSW – a work in progress for 2016.
“What most captured my attention about Sunswift is the passion for innovation and cutting-edge development,” he said.
“There is a tone in the team that it’s important to be the best, or the newest, and really use our car as a symbol to encourage others to care about green technology.”
Hayden is still involved with Sunswift as the team’s compliance officer but has taken a step back from leadership to focus on his thesis about another world-leading UNSW student engineering project – the robot soccer squad.
The five-robot UNSW team beat Germany’s ‘B-Human’ team to clinch back-to-back RoboCup titles earlier this year.
After completing his studies Hayden said he would love to find a niche “somewhere between the small company and startup scene”.
“I think it’s an exhilarating time to be trying to start something new,” he said.
He has previously urged students to seize the many opportunities that university offers. “University is not some obstacle to overcome. It’s a platform on which you can do some of the most important work of your life," he said.
You can see the full triple j 25 under 25 list here.