UC students optimise Chch Airport’s parking

06 September 2019

Ideas to use more detailed customer segments and profiles to improve parking options have taken the top spots this evening after a 48 hour data hackathon held at the airport.

  • 48 Hour Hackathon Challenge Team 1

    Team Fly away (Left to right): Justin Watson (Chief Aeronautical & Commercial Officer, Christchurch Airport) James Williams (Data Science Lecturer, University of Canterbury & Founder, Isogonal) Yiwei Chen, Divya Pasumarthi, Shreshtha Gupta, Anjana Xavier and Nic Sullivan (Commercial Manager, Park to Plane, Christchurch Airport) Missing: Speedy Jiang.

48 Hackathon Challenge team 2

Team Wheako (Left to right): Justin Watson (Chief Aeronautical & Commercial Officer, Christchurch Airport) James Williams (Data Science Lecturer, University of Canterbury & Founder, Isogonal) Vinayak Singh, Manjusha Radharkrishnan, Amala Ayppachan, Dipin Joseph and Nic Sullivan (Commercial Manager, Park to Plane, Christchurch Airport).

Ideas to use more detailed customer segments and profiles to improve parking options have taken the top spots this evening after a 48 hour data hackathon held at the airport. 

Five teams of University of Canterbury students have just completed a two day challenge in which they used data to explore the impact of passenger journeys on the use of Christchurch Airport’s car parks. 

The teams of Masters of Applied Data Science students were given access to general operational data from the airport covering the arrival and departure of passengers, the number of vehicles using parking facilities, and the use of ridesharing and public transport.

Teams explored how different passenger profiles change the way airport car parks are used, as well as how the use of different types of car parks (long stay versus short stay) shifts hour-to-hour, week-to-week, and month-to-month.

At the end of the 48 hour challenge, each team had seven minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, consisting of: Nic Sullivan, Commercial Manager, Park to Plane, Christchurch Airport; Justin Watson, Chief Aeronautical & Commercial Officer, Christchurch Airport; James Williams, Data Science Lecturer, University of Canterbury and Founder of Isogonal.

Judges said the winning team’s creativity and innovative analysis is what set them apart. They also commended the insight into the impact that the arrival of large international flights have on the use of the Loop.

“I have never been exposed to such a real, complex data set,” Athira Nair from Team Data Brewers says. 

“It was brilliant to be able to apply things from my classes to the real world and actually add value to a business.”

Winning teams took home $2,000 in prizes between them, as well as the possibility of landing an internship at the airport.

“The data challenge gives students a unique opportunity to get hands-on with operational data from the Christchurch International Airport,” University of Canterbury Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE) Business Manager James Carr says.

“It’s an opportunity for them to apply the theory they learn in the classroom to the real world, with tangible benefits for both the airport, and passengers.”

Throughout the two days of the challenge, students received coaching and mentoring from UCE staff, UC Data Science staff, and airport staff to push their ideas and ensure they are placed in the real world context of the airport.

“Christchurch Airport welcomes just on 7 million visitors a year. That can mean a lot of cars requiring a parking space, so when UC offered to dig deep into something we wanted to know more about, we suggested our car parking,” Art Martinson, Christchurch Airport Head of Digital Solutions and Data Technology, says.

“We have asked the students to ask the tough questions, think broad and deep about our parking and offer suggestions which we hope will assist us in our constant reconsideration of everything we do here, with the intention of making things better for our visitors.”


The carpark data hackathon is the fifth such 48 hour Disrupt Innovation Challenge organised by the university’s Centre for Entrepreneurship this year, following the Sustainability Challenge, Future of Digital Travel, Health Challenge and Marketing Smackdown events before it.

For high res images, click here. For further information, comment, or interviews, please contact James Carr directly on +64 22 422 7756 or at james.carr@canterbury.ac.nz.

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