Tauranga company wins NZ Space Challenge

John Ahearn from GPS Control Systems takes away $40,000 from his win in the NZ Space Challenge.

The inaugural NZ Space Challenge has been won by Tauranga company GPS Control Systems with its concept of a Global Navigation Satellite System to help heavy tracked vehicles detect and avoid perilous ice shelf crevasses.

Team mastermind John Ahearn was present at the awards ceremony last night to collect $40,000 in prize money, plus six months of desk space at a local incubator and access to mentorship.

The Space Challenge brought together some of the brightest minds from across the country to find innovative technological solutions to navigating the extreme environments of Antarctica and outer space.

John, who represented Auckland, Northland and Bay of Plenty, says he’s very excited to win the award and it was a daunting task to get up and present alongside such a talented group of finalists.

“My Year 7 teacher once told me when you stop learning, you grow old. So never stop learning.”

He was up against designs from four other regional finalists, including a Pokémon GO-style augmented reality system, a suborbital rocket, airborne ice penetrating radar, and a multi-spectral data analysis technique using artificial intelligence.

The NZ Space Challenge was the brain child of space enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, Eric Dahlstrom and Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom, who established SpaceBase with fellow co-founder Rich Bodo.

SpaceBase partnered with economic development agency ChristchurchNZ to deliver the national challenge, sponsored by AntarcticaNZ, and the winner was announced as part of ChristchurchNZ’s Techweek’18 event, Extreme Environments – from Antarctica to Space.

SpaceBase co-founder Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom says whittling the five finalists down to just one winner had been hard for the panel of national and international judges listening to the pitches.

“All the concepts presented would have an impact on solving navigation issues in the Antarctic, and the opportunities presented by innovative use of advanced technologies were very exciting to the judges.”

ChristchurchNZ chief executive Joanna Norris congratulated all five finalists on the high calibre of their presentations.

“We have seen some mind-blowing solutions to the challenge.

“The NZ Space Challenge demonstrates the strength of our emerging and exciting space industry that builds on our traditional manufacturing expertise and strong tech sector.

Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Peter Beggs says each of the finalists displayed creative solutions for safer navigation across Antarctica.

“This event has been an amazing meeting of some of the brightest minds in our science and technology sectors.

“Antarctica New Zealand offers our warmest congratulations to John for his innovative design.”


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