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Act in Space Hackathon


Wow. It is currently the Monday following New Zealand’s first Act in Space Hackathon and I am still playing catch-up with what we achieved. In my mind, the 24 hours spent in the GreenHouse at Christchurch was at least a month’s worth of work. Surely, we couldn’t have chosen one of the world’s biggest Space Challenges, identified a specific problem, come up with a solution, performed market research, undertaken product testing, designed a prototype, calculate a financial plan, execute the beginning of marketing strategy, and succeed in delivering a fantastic pitch to a judging panel of 5? Fortunately, or unfortunately in several cases, the photos prove otherwise.

Our Act in Space experience began with Nevin Jojo, Evie O’Connor, and myself, flying down to Christchurch early Friday morning. A ‘24 Hour’ Hackathon wasn’t something I ever saw myself realistically completing, simply because staying awake for 24 hours was something I had never, ever, achieved. Not for lack of attempts.

At 3pm we arrived at the GreenHouse, a start-up incubator space for young businesses in Canterbury. We were greeted by the amazing team of volunteers who handed us THE BEST goodie bags we had ever received. There was a t-shirt, glass keg cups, a drink bottle, stickers, notebooks, contacts, $300 voucher for cloud storage, COFFEE VOUCHERS, pens, and numerous pamphlets with helpful resources. The t-shirts were on within minutes, initial photos were snapped, and we waited eagerly for the event to kick off.

Our MC for the weekend was no other than Mike Riversdale who quickly pushed us through a team building exercise. We ended up joining with Rosalind Smith (Roz) and John Holdaway who were invaluable with their enthusiasm, eye for detail, and constant energy. I don’t think I ever heard a whisper of complaint despite the long hours and stressful hours before pitching. They were fantastic in their support and team contribution; we really couldn’t have been luckier.

From there the Hackathon truly began. I would say the next 24 Hours were made up of equal parts amazing food, fantastic team moments, endless mentor lightbulb moments, and questioning what the hell we were actually doing.

We charged through a lean canvas which proved vital in narrowing down our problem, idea, and market audience. When I say ‘charged’ I mean we had sort of, almost, finished it by 2.30AM when we decided it was time for a nap. Thourghouly happy with the progress we had made, we stumbled to our backpackers down the road, slept for around 2 and a half hours, then staggered back to the Grennhouse for a 6.30AM breakfast at a cafe around the corner. Breakfast was AMAZING. Pancakes with bacon, banana, coconut, maple syrup….chia pudding with fresh fruit….huge burgers worthy of any drunk night snack….and most importantly a free caffine drink of choice. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much caffeine in my bloodstream. In fact, i wouldn’t be surprised if the shakes I have today are withdrawals. By 10AM we were focused solely on our pitch. Evie was on putting our pitch deck together, Nevin on building our prototype, John on research “WHOA” facts, Roz on getting some awesome quotes from our target market, and I was sorting out our “to-be” financial situation before writing a pitch script to match the slides.

One pitch practice at 1.10PM, the other at 3.20PM and then suddenly it was internet off, pens down, we are pitching in 10min at 5.15PM. Luckily we were second up out of nine teams which meant we could sit back and enjoy the other teams presentations. And what a range of ideas were presented! From social art ideas, to monitoring oil spills, to reducing space balloon waste. The winning team combined VR/AR with robotics to fix hardware problems in Space from the ground. By then, we were completely dead on our feet, but were fortunate enough to be approached by the fantastic Centre for Space Science Technology who loved our idea...perhaps this is something you will be reading more about in the months to come!

A huge thank you to the following people who made a massive difference to our Hackathon experience:

Rafael Kargren Valentín Merino Villeneuve Jon Sandbrook Eduard Liebenberger Pallas Hupe Cotter Eric Dahlstrom Stewart Fleming Clémence Vannier Tim Uckun Mike Riversdale