By Leah Campbell
When most students are 17, they’re preparing college applications and planning for prom. When Sihao Huang was 17, he was meeting with officials from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration. For two years before arriving at MIT, Huang started and ran a company, designing small, customizable satellite modules. Huang, now a college senior double majoring in physics and electrical engineering and computer science, is as enterprising and curious as ever, and he still spends his time thinking about complex physics models and how to engineer better systems. But these days, what interests him isn’t satellite systems, but political ones.
During his childhood in China and Singapore, Huang taught himself electrical engineering and coding and started building circuit boards in his bedroom. At 14, when his family moved to the United States, he set off on a personal mission to launch something into space. Huang co-founded a company, Aphelion Orbitals, which he ran for three years. During that time, he recruited engineers from aerospace companies to design modular launch vehicles and propulsion systems to help make sending satellites into space accessible to more people.
Huang realized, though, that the real challenge for him in owning the company wasn’t the engineering; it was the people and business side of things. “I think I needed to grow more as a person before I could grow the company more,” he says of his decision to attend college. “It was so much more than just assembling parts.”