ActInSpace NZ is over for 2018 – stay tuned to find out more about how the winning team from Christchurch does in the international finals, and about the next global ActInSpace event in 2020.

During the ActInSpace hackathon, there will be mentors available to support your team. These mentors be people such as:

  • Technical experts (space industry, earth observation, machine learning, etc.)
  • Dev and design experts (software developers, coders, designers)
  • Business development/start-up mentors (business development, writing business plans, market research, pitch coaches)
  • Team coaches (effective communication, giving feedback, team dynamics)

There will also be a panel of judges (separate from the mentors) who will evaluate your pitch at the end of the hackathon and award prizes to some teams.

Our first confirmed mentor is Mark Rocket:


Internet and aerospace entrepreneur, Mark founded two internet companies in 1998 and sold one of those ventures to a telecommunications corporate. Mark was the first Kiwi to book a ticket with Virgin Galactic. He was the seed investor and co-Director of Rocket Lab from 2007 to 2011. In 2018 Mark formed Kea Aerospace, a research partner of University of Canterbury currently working on a range of projects.

Clémence Vannier is a mentor:

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Clémence is a geographer who works on Landscape and Environmental issues. She holds a PhD in remote sensing and modelling agricultural practices in Brittany region (France), She taught physical geography for two years at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, and completed a three and a half year postdoc on mapping and prospective modelling of the land use and ecosystem services changes in a mountain region (Grenoble area, Alps, France), as part of a FP7 European project named OPERAs. She now works on Socio-Ecosystems, and how, facing Environmental issues, landscape can protect human well-being. The use of geospatial tools is central in her research where she tries to develop new methods and landscape approaches to evaluate ever new remote sensing and GIS products. She recently worked on the landscape role on pesticide drifts in the Waipara wine region (New Zealand) to promote nature-based solutions to better protect inhabitants against drift exposures (project funded by the CNES). She has participated in approximately seven research projects, and has co-authored 19 peer-reviewed research publications.

Her strong experience as a geographer working in applied science and environmental issues, and using a wide variety of geospatial products will provide good expertise for ActInSpace.

We also have Nic Baldwin as a mentor:

Nic Baldwin

Nic recently completed a Masters in policy and governance with an undergrad background of philosophy and history. He is currently taking a year off to work on a farm and then travel around Europe and Africa for half a year with plans to move to Wellington and find a job as a policy analyst.

Space is a passion of Nic’s and he hopes one day to work on policy that connects humanity with space 
and opens up a new frontier for the human endeavour and imagination. Some of his more recent work was more grounded on earth with his involvement in a report on autonomous vehicles written via the NSC for the Ministry of Transport. This was an exciting opportunity to help create a glimpse of the future of transport for New Zealand. He would love to use his training in policy to help make your dreams a reality and looks forward to meeting you all!

Introducing Stewart Fleming:


Stu holds a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and a PhD in Computer Science from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. He lectured in Computing and Computer Science in Papua New Guinea and New Zealand before launching a new career in the Internet industry. After 13 years immersed in NZ’s wireless and fibre technologies, he re-ignited his passion for innovation and now heads up Venture Southland’s Business Accelerator Programme, dealing with startups and spinoff ventures across Southland. In a separate part of his role at Venture, Stu lends technical expertise to the Space Support Systems team.

Stu brings excellent agile business development and lean canvas skills, combining academic and commercial experience into a mentoring approach that is encouraging and motivating as well as questioning and challenging.

Introducing Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom:

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Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom is a space entrepreneur. Originally from the Philippines, she’s spent nearly 30 years building space and technology educational ecosystems around the world, including International Space University and serving as the Executive Vice President for Operations, and the Chief Impact Officer for Singularity University. Emeline has also worked for space startup companies such as Space Adventures, the first space tourism company to send private citizens to the International Space Station. She is the co-author of the book Realizing Tomorrow: The Path to Private Spaceflight.

As a Fellow of the Edmund Hillary Fellowship, Emeline now has her sights set on New Zealand, moving here last year from Silicon Valley to co-found SpaceBase, a networking and funding platform focused on creating a sustainable space ecosystem in Aotearoa, and initiating the first nationwide New Zealand Space Challenge.

Introducing Eric Dahlstrom:


Eric Dahlstrom is a co-founder of SpaceBase and International Space Consultants, and an Edmund Hillary Fellow with his wife Emeline. Eric is a space engineer, astronomer, and consultant who has worked on spacecraft design and space science for 35 years, both for NASA and the commercial space industry. He studied physics, astronomy, and space systems engineering and is currently the chair of Space Science at International Space University, having taught in ten countries.

Eric worked on the design of the International Space Station including the Russian interface. He co-authored NASA’s “Lessons Learned from Challenger” report and the risk of Shuttle accidents. He has supported a dozen entrepreneurial space companies, served as project manager for commercial lunar spacecraft and payloads, and managed team projects at Singularity University. He is a planetary sciences mentor for the NASA Frontier Development Lab, applying artificial intelligence to the hazard of asteroid impact.

Introducing Pallas Hupe Cotter:

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Pallas is a pitch coach who’s worked with Lightning Lab’s XX and Kiwibank FinTech startup accelerators. 

She has a masters degree in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford University. Formerly an Emmy award winning TV news reporter and anchor in the USA. Now, she’s now a public speaker, broadcaster, writer and mentor. Named New Zealand’s Brightstar Emerging Speaker in 2017, she’s authored two books and published personal essays in The Spinoff and HuffPost Australia. Pallas is the founder of a personal leadership development and strategic messaging consultancy called POP.

She’s worked with a wide variety of clients, from students to top politicians, as well as some of New Zealand’s best success stories (Xero, Trademe). She hosts workshops and mentors on a range of subjects: Personal Leadership Brand, Media Training, LinkedIn Positioning as well as Pitching/Persuading/Presenting & Storytelling.

Introducing Duncan Steel:


Over the past thirty years Duncan has worked on space projects in the US, UK, Australia, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand. He studied at the universities of London, Colorado and Canterbury, taking his PhD at the latter. Duncan’s research has focussed largely on the dynamics of asteroids and comets, and radar studies of meteors, though he has dabbled in many other areas of science. In the early 1990s he instigated the first near-Earth object tracking programme in the southern hemisphere, based at the Anglo-Australian Observatory, and he twice served as Vice-President of the Spaceguard Foundation.

Duncan is the author of four books, over 140 research papers, and more than a thousand articles in newspapers and magazines published around the globe. He has also appeared in many TV documentaries, and radio interviews.

Minor planet 4713 Steel is named for him, as is a lunar-roving robot in one of Arthur C. Clarke’s novels; Clarke contributed the Foreword for one of Duncan’s books, and the Afterword for another. Duncan is also an expert on the history and astronomical basis of calendars.

Introducing Chris Hann:


Dr. Christopher E. Hann is a Senior Lecturer Above the Bar in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Canterbury. From 2012-2016, Hann was a Tier 2 Rutherford Discovery Fellow with research title “Advanced Rocket System Modelling and Control for Supersonic and Hypersonic Flight”. He has extensive research and teaching experience in minimal modelling, parameter identification and control for rocketry systems and aerospace engineering in general. He has a proven track record in developing research for the high tech industry with over $4M external funding raised since 2004. His research has led to major outcomes in sounding rocket control systems including developing the research foundation for the guidance, navigation and control (GNC) algorithms on Rocket Lab’s orbital rocket Electron, recently proven in orbit. Six of Hann’s postgraduate students are in key positions at Rocket Lab including several in important leadership roles in GNC, avionics and propulsion.

Since 2010, the methods have also been successfully applied to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), robotics and structural health monitoring of multi-storey buildings. Prior to 2010 Hann’s research was primarily used in the medical field, particularly for glucose control, lung ventilation and cardiovascular management in the Christchurch Intensive Care Unit. He has supervised 25 PhD and 18 Masters students including 10 students with rocketry related projects, has 110 international journal papers, 163 refereed conference papers and 3 US patents.

Introducing Chris Elles:


Chris is an entrepreneur, mentor, early stage Amazon(97-01), Stanford GSB and MIT GEB alumni, Hacking 4 Defence educator and NASA Solar System Ambassador.

Introducing Jim Hefkey


Jim Hefkey currently holds the position of Professional Teaching Fellow at the University of Auckland. He is the founder of the Auckland Program for Space Systems – an undergraduate program that is currently building a satellite that will go into space at the end of this year.

With a life-long interest in space Jims’ goal is to establish space education programs throughout New Zealand. He is a graduate of the CanSat Leaders Training Program in Japan, NZ contact for UNISEC Global, active in the New Zealand Rocketry Association, and a foundation member of the KiwiSpace Foundation.

His other subject interests include Engineering Systems, Engineering Management, and Mechanical Engineering Design. He holds an M.E. in Manufacturing Systems and a postgraduate Business Qualification in Engineering Management. Beginning his career in Canada before moving to New Zealand he has forty years’ engineering experience in manufacturing, automation and machine design. A business owner for ten years, the services he provides to industry include designing automation machinery, productivity improvements, design for manufacture, and design for competitive advantage.

Introducing Valentín Merino Villeneuve

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Valentín joined the former Spanish Aeronautical Company CASA in 2000 within the Space Division, as Procurement Engineer. He then moved to the Military Transport Division as Deputy Director for the development of a new Boom Air to Air Refuelling tanker device based on the Airbus A330, Multi Role Transport Tanker (MRTT), coordinating the various key areas of design, purchase, and manufacturing, and finally being responsible for the industrialisation of the project in Australia.

In February 2008, Valentín moved to Brisbane as the Australian Program Manager responsible for the A330 MRTT Air Refuelling (KC-30A) project for the Royal Australian Air Force, and concurrently was the Airbus Military representative in Australia.

In 2012, he was appointed Airbus Military, Australian and New Zealand country manager, where he was responsible for Airbus Military’s (now Airbus Defence and Space) business opportunities including, establishing the sales strategies in both countries and leading all commercial opportunities.

In his current appointment he leads the interests of Airbus Defence and Space in Australia and New Zealand from Canberra. He foresees a bright future for the group in a respected country like New Zealand, where government agencies are closely looking to industry to offer globally integrated complex solutions, combining capabilities from Space, Ground and Air environments.

Introducing Eduard Liebenberger:

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Eduard is a technologist through and through and is on a mission to create better digital experiences. He’s passionate about driving AI adoption and leveraging this general purpose technology to free up intellectual capital from mundane and highly repetitive tasks. In other words, allowing highly trained people to focus on intellectually challenging tasks rather than wasting their time on clear-cut decisions.

Introducing Jon Sandbrook:


Jon Sandbrook is the Investment Manager with WNT Ventures, a technology incubator and early-stage investor. Jon’s background includes roles as a corporate strategist, business developer, consultant and executive manager focusing on building and growing companies, primarily in the technology, agriculture and food, finance and biotechnology sectors.

Prior to returning to New Zealand to join WNT Ventures, Jon spent eight years in the USA in roles including Regional Director for WWBIC, a small business investment fund, and Independent Advisor for Babylon BioConsulting, a specialist biotechnology consulting firm. Jon co-founded Pan Genome Systems, an animal health biotechnology start-up specialising in vaccines and diagnostics development, and led the company to a strategic deal with a global animal health company. Before moving to the USA, Jon served as a senior executive and led the corporate strategy function for New Zealand State Owned Enterprise AsureQuality Ltd.

Jon has a passion for cutting edge technologies, start-ups and innovative corporates with global reach, as well as interest in non-profits, social ventures and philanthropy.

Introducing Maria King:

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An innovative entrepreneur and angel investor with a background in applied science and technology, Maria’s passions lie in developing and growing businesses, especially start-up and early stage business, and in governance. Approaching life with a discovery mind-set, love of learning and a healthy dose of genuine inquisitiveness, Maria has the ability to connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas and enjoys being able to challenge common wisdom and assumptions through astute questioning – which all come in handy when working with entrepreneurs and early stage businesses, which she does a lot.

Maria is a Director of the Centre for Space Science Technology and is also currently working with companies who are involved in fields such as hyperspectral sensing technologies, Internet of Things and digital technologies for sustainable commercial fishing. Maria is an experienced facilitator and has mentored and judged at Start-Up Weekend events over the past few years so she will feel right at home mentoring at Act in Space.

Introducing Rafael Kargren:

Rafael Kargren

Rafael is seasoned entrepreneur, telecom and space executive, Director of Operations for Centre for Space Science Technology and board member of several space startups.

Rafael founded his first successful business when he was only 19 years old and successfully sold it to telecommunications giant. Over thirty years of his career, he has led multibillion telecom corporation, developed new businesses in challenging places around the world, created several successful space startups and shaped space strategies in several countries.

He has been co-chairman of International Telecommunication Union and is an active member of NASA’s Space Operations Executive Committee and Asia Pacific Regional Satellite Forum, winner of several European Space Agency innovation awards and Scandinavian Leader of the year in 2012.

Introducing Rob Scovell:


Rob is an Astrophysics graduate from the UK and a software developer who likes to specialise in mathematical computing, as well as creating more general applications for entrepreneurs and startups. He loves bringing his skills to help energetic people in the New Zealand startup scene!

Introducing Tim Uckun:

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Tim Uckun is the Director of Data and Analytics at the Centre for Space Science Technologies. He has been a serial entrepreur and an angel investor who has been involved and had a hand in shaping companies ranging from six to six thousand employees.

Tim brings extensive data and infrastructure experience including Data Warehousing, Business Intelligence, fast data ingestion and real time analytics, leveraging cloud infrastructures to achieve very highly available and auto scaling environments.

And last but by no means least, Miramar Mike:

Green sparkle beard Mike

Whilst Mike Riversdale is our event producer and will be powering the team facilitation process he will also be available to help all teams hone their final presentations. Standing on many (many!) years of communicating complex, intricate, and innovative ideas to all types of audiences he will bring a strong storytelling approach to the event. (

Register for ActInSpace.