Kids in Space

Meet Alessandro Zulli—one of 254 talented students from 30 countries and 30 states who won a scholarship to attend the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy.

Most of us have been to camp—but nothing like this. What was it like?

Alessandro Zulli: It was a truly amazing experience in all respects. The first day I got there, it was late and our plane had been delayed, so myself and friends I had made in Memphis were some of the last people in. We each got assigned our dorm rooms and, being late, went straight to bed. It was a cemetery in there. No one made a sound; no one talked. It almost seemed like we were afraid. Now the next night, and the night after that, and for all the nights of the week, we got no sleep at all. The night was spent talking, pulling practical pranks and just generally sharing experiences both of the camp and our pasts. 

What does one learn at a camp like this?

AZ: I learned, among other things, how to aid and design a system through which to deal with mass evacuations, optics technology, how to build a model rocket and heat shield, and how to best separate DNA from its host. We did all these things by basically just jumping right in.

Wow, that’s a busy itinerary. But what was the coolest?

AZ: I would say the most interesting thing was flying the F-18A Hornets in the simulation cockpit. The controls where truly all there, and even after our crash course in piloting and briefing for our mission, none of us had the slightest idea what more than half of the buttons did. The one student who actually knew what he was doing actually did his job and landed Air Force One. The rest of us started off pretty well, but when the fighting actually started, it was amazingly funny to watch. People started barrel rolling straight down into the sea, stalling and firing at random—hitting their own teammates. I died in this way, being shot down by friendly fire when one of my teammates spun out of control. I was pretty mad, to be honest, since it was so fun doing the simulation, but they gave us time to fly freely on it after the mission (and get revenge).

What does leadership mean to you?

AZ: One thing they taught us is that leadership takes so many forms—no matter how many you think of, there will always be another one. They also taught us that the only definition that really matters is yours, since that’s the one you will follow. To me, leadership is taking charge and organizing everything in a way that best suits your needs and is efficient. It also means taking responsibility, basking in the glory it may give you and the hatred you may cause for your failures. It means to never shirk away from responsibilities given to you. If you can do that, then in my eyes, you have succeeded in leading.