21 June 2018

Mechanical Engineers from the University of Sheffield Win UK Heat of International Innovation Contest ActInSpace®

Three PhD students from the Department of Mechanical Engineering made it through to the UK finals of international innovation contest, ActInSpace®.

The exterior of the Diamond

Sheen Mclean Cabañeros, Tom Garwood and Victoria Mawson, also known as Team VSTr, made it to the UK finals after taking part in a 24-hour hackathon heat where they developed - from scratch - a business plan to utilise space technology for earth-based applications.

Initiated by the French Space Agency (CNES) and supported by ESA and the ESA Business Incubation Centres network, ActInSpace® involves participants from over 60 cities across 5 continents.

Teams come together to work on real-life challenges alongside business mentors and technical experts - designing innovative services and products that find every day uses for space technologies or data.

“The challenge we undertook was sponsored by Airbus and focused on how to ‘Leverage the power of Earth Observation (EO) and open sources data via Machine Learning,” explains Tom.


We had a lot of fun taking part in the hackathon in Daresbury. It was tough but rewarding and we were delighted to have achieved first place against such other excellent ideas – of course, our coffee tally of 20 cups certainly helped over the 24 hours!

Sheen Mclean Cabaneros

Team VSTr


“Our proposed design was a platform for use by logistics companies, allowing them to plan more efficient scheduling and routing of freight. This was achieved by using pattern recognition algorithms on satellite data to determine traffic density at certain times and places.

“Along with other collected variables, a deep neural network allowed for predictions on the most effective schedule and route to minimise disruptions to the delivery.”

Following the UK heat hackathon in Daresbury, Cheshire which included an 8-minute pitch and a question and answers session to a panel of jury members, VSTr were awarded first prize for their innovative business plan for a niche market.

“We had a lot of fun taking part in the hackathon in Daresbury. It was tough but rewarding and we were delighted to have achieved first place against such other excellent ideas – of course, our coffee tally of 20 cups certainly helped over the 24 hours!” says Sheen.

The team then went on to compete in the UK final in Oxford on 8th June where team VSTr came a close second.

“Although we didn’t make it to the international final, we were thrilled to make it to the UK finals and the feedback from the judges was really positive,” says Victoria.

“The whole experience has been fantastic and we have taken a lot from it, in fact, we are looking at different options for potentially progressing our business idea outside of the competition.”

The international final will take place on Wednesday 27th June at the Toulouse Space Show, where each country will be represented. The team presenting the most promising project will win the Grand Prix ActInSpace® which includes start-up support via the ESA Business Incubation Centres (ESA-BIC) as well as the opportunity of a parabolic zero-G flight.

Congratulations to Team VSTr!

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