Getting to know Mick Cassey

The Forum at UON will be alive this week with the sounds of budding young scientists and engineers taking part in the NSW Super Challenge Event of the Science and Engineering Challenge. We caught up with Manager Events Mick Cassey, based in UON’s Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, who told us about his work with the challenge.

Tell us about your background and how you became involved in the Science and Engineering Challenge?

I was born in Newcastle in April 1980 to my parents John and Narelle. We lived in Newcastle for a few years then spent time living in Adelaide, Sydney and Edinbrough before returning to Newcastle in 1990. I have two brothers and a sister and we’re all quite close.

After finishing school I had several jobs before falling into the Science and Engineering Challenge. I had just finished a business management diploma in 2001 and was asked if I would like to apply for the position with the Science and Engineering Challenge.

What’s been the most unexpected aspect of your work so far?

A few spring to mind. Firstly, would be our program winning the Sir William Hudson award by Engineers Australia for the best engineering project in Australia in 2003.

Others would be attending, running and help establish the first Science and Engineering Challenge outside Australia in Singapore. Receiving the VC’s team award for Staff Excellence in 2011 and winning the Professional Team of the year award in 2012 from the Faculty of Science and IT.


Do you draw on any people or resources  for inspiration?

I draw upon positive encounters with others, of which there are too many to name. Nobody in particular, however, people who are even handed and show great leadership I find to be very inspiring. There are many teachers I’ve met over the years at Science and Engineering Challenge events across Australia who fit this perfectly. I like watching the students activley listening and their eyes light up whenever their teacher talks to them.

What do you hope will be achieved by the Challenge and what did you achieve or realise?

I believe the Science and Engineering Challenge is an amazing program that inspires the youth of Australia into careers in Science and Engineering. It is the main reason why I have stayed with the program for so long. However, the program continually struggles (like most) for funding so it can keep running at full capacity each year. My hope is that I can make a life long career with the program and it can expand even further across Australia and internationally.


What are you passionate about? Can others in the community get involved? How?

My own and my family’s fitness, plus parkrun. parkrun organise free, weekly, 5 km timed runs around the world. They are open to the community and are safe and easy to start your Saturday morning. These events take place in pleasant parkland and other surroundings and encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; everyone and anyone should attend.

I attend the Lake Macquarie event each Saturday with my wife, children and even one of the dogs from time to time. It is a brilliant community initiative. It runs on volunteers and breeds fun and enthusiasm for pram pushers or the elite. I love watching my children run and seeing how happy they are when others from the community encourage them along.  

What’s been your proudest achievement to date?

Getting married and becoming a father without a doubt. I’m very proud to say I’m a father to a 4.5 year old boy (Byron) and a 2.5 year old girl (Mikayla). I love to watch them grow and learn. One thing I have learnt from them is not to be scared. Kids love new things and will have a go at anything. As you grow older I find you lose that.

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What’s your favourite Newcastle neighbourhood and why?

I previously lived in Islington for several years when I was first married. We moved due to an expanding family, however I love the sense of community in the suburb. It’s such a friendly and happy place.

What do you look forward to doing most in Newcastle in summer?

Getting back to the beach with my family and just generally spending more time outdoors.

And winter?

I’m a hobby triathlete, so rides along the beach, from the uni, and through King Edward Park as the sun comes up in winter, are as close to perfection as you can get. There is nothing like a strong coffee, muesli bar and starting a ride just before sunrise. The reward comes around 30 minutes later as you hit the coastline. Plus endorphins can’t be beaten, you arrive at work full of energy, happy and ready to go.

Where and what was the last greatest meal you had in Newcastle?

Due to having two young children, my wife and I don’t get to spend time alone over a meal. So any evening where the children are looked after and we can get to a nice restaurant and have a few wines is my idea of a really great meal.

Best place to getaway to? 

As a weekend away I’ve always liked Nelson Bay. It’s so close but feels like it’s a holiday escape from Newcastle. Due to the kids we love the holiday parks – the last one was Coffs Harbour – it had a giant jumping pillow, a pool with 3 water slides, a games room, nearby beaches and places close by to have a meal.

Your #1 Newcastle insiders tip?

Take a walk through Glenrock Reserve. I take the kids frequently. We walk from the Kahibah entrance and down to Burwood Beach. Take a backpack with snacks and swimmers for the beach. It’s a very beautiful walk.


Do you know someone in our region making a difference? Let us know! engage@newcastle.edu.au

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