All posts by HM

UC alumni Kyle on how his tiny house contributes to a more sustainable world

TinyhouseAs part of Eco Week 2016,  you can tour tiny houses built by UC alumni.

One of these tiny homes was built by Kyle Sutherland, who graduated from UC in 2011 with a Bachelor of Commerce. We spoke to him about his experience of building and living in a tiny house below.

What made you decide to build your own Tiny Home? 

I’ve always thought that working thirty years to pay an enormous amount of interest to the bank just to have a roof over my head was a crazy idea. When my good friend Bryce told me about the tiny house he was building and what they can enable, I was sold. From the lower carbon footprint of the build to the ability to generate and store all of my electricity completely off grid through solar panels, tiny houses give a whole lot more than just financial freedom.

What have you enjoyed the most during your Tiny House build?

My brother is a qualified builder currently living in Australia and was an absolute legend giving up three months of work to come help me build it. I enjoyed learning a new set of skills which I previously didn’t have and now have awesome memories working on it with my friends and family.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to give it a go?

It’s a big commitment for those who aren’t as lucky to have family and friends who specialise in the necessary trades, but it is more than achievable with the amount of self-help information out on the Internet. My key piece of advice would be to do lots of research and ask lots of questions. The design of the house is one of the most crucial steps to successfully building a tiny home.

How do Tiny Houses contribute to a sustainable world?

Living in around 23m2 of space has a much smaller footprint than Ray of Light SMLthe average New Zealand home of 209m2. For example fewer resources are required to build a tiny house, and there is a much smaller area to heat in winter. Combine this with off-grid solar, thermally broken windows built with a north facing aspect, a composting toilet and rain collection, tiny houses are part of the housing solution to a more sustainable world.

The Tiny House Tour will be held on Thursday 22 September, from 1.30pm – 4.00pm. Meet at Erskine/Science car park, Ilam Campus. Bookings are essential as there are seats available for 22 people only. To register, email or call 03 364 2025. Bring snacks, drinks and clothes suitable for the weather (footwear with closed toes, no jandals or sandals please).

ENGS5715_Eco_Week_WordPress_BNRTo learn more about tiny houses, read Living Big in a Tiny House.

The Tiny House Tour is part of UC Eco Week 2016, which runs from 19-24 September 2016. Eco Week is a festival of events that celebrates and promotes what you can do for the environment, your community and your life.

This message was brought to you by the UC Sustainability Office. Connect with us through Facebook or Instagram. Or email us:

NASA astronaut dream one step closer for researcher

IMG_8888Dr Sarah Kessans, a Post-doctoral Fellow in the Chemistry Department, applied to be a NASA astronaut back in February and has recently made the next cut for NASA’s Astronaut Candidate Class of 2017. She is one of approximately 120 invited to Houston for initial interviews.

We talked to Sarah about her experience so far.

Why did you apply to be a NASA astronaut?

While I consider myself a scientist/educator first and foremost, exploration, adventure, and team sports have always been huge parts of my life. I absolutely love my current position and the research that I’m getting to perform here at UC, but becoming a NASA astronaut would combine all of my many passions into one incredibly fulfilling, inspiring career.

Like many kids, I dreamed of being an astronaut when I was younger, but I never thought it would be an actual, viable career choice for me. When a friend posted NASA’s Astronaut Candidate Program selection announcement on Facebook late last year, I realised that I not only met the minimum requirements (US citizenship, bachelor’s degree in a STEM field. plus three years of professional experience and 20/20 vision), but also possessed many of the traits and experiences that NASA was looking for in the next astronaut class.

My heart rate jumped up pretty high just contemplating the opportunity of getting to perform cutting edge science while serving my country in one of the most incredible ways possible, so I started the application right then and there while eating my brekkie.

How do you feel about being invited for an interview?

I am completely honoured and humbled to have been invited for the initial interview. Though, I will admit, once I got off the phone with the Astronaut Selection Office when they invited me for an interview, I did jump around the office with enough passion that the postgrads in the next office over questioned if there had been earthquake!

The whole process thus far has been an incredible journey – from applying and just dreaming of going to space, to making it through to the Highly Qualified pool (top 450 applicants) and rehashing adventures with old teammates and advisors who had been contacted by NASA as referees, and now getting the opportunity to go to Houston to meet current astronauts, tour the Johnson Space Center, and learn more about the current program and the future of space travel… it is quite surreal.

What process do you have to go through to get in?

Right now, I am in the top <1% of the initial applicants (120 of 18,3000) who will go to Houston for three days of interviews in groups of 10 between now and early November.

From what I’ve gathered from past selection rounds, we’ll be given psychological and medical tests during the interview process, but mostly the selection panel will be looking to see if we’re suited for the program (ie. if the members of the current Astronaut Corps would be able to live and get along with us for 6 months or longer in a tin can hurtling through the vacuum of space at 17,500 miles an hour). Therefore, the most frequent bit of advice I’ve gotten from those associated with the program is “just be yourself.”

After NASA has interviewed us all, they will narrow the field down to approximately 50 finalists, who will then go through another week of more rigorous tests (currently scheduled for January – April 2017). In June 2017, NASA will then choose 8-14 of these finalists to become the Astronaut Candidate Class of 2017, who will report for duty starting in August 2017.

Right now, I’m trying to learn as much as I possibly can about the program and the current Corps, and I’m trying to stay relaxed enough to just enjoy the ride. It would be the most amazing dream come true to be chosen as one of the lucky eight-14, but so far the journey has been the reward, with the support and inspiration of such an incredible community (especially from UC) surrounding me and cheering me on.

WEB student sculpture exhibition


Okeover Community Gardens, University of Canterbury


  • Opening: Tuesday 16 August, from 4:30pm
  • Artist Talks and tour of artworks: Saturday 20 August, 11 am
  • Exhibition runs: 17 Aug – 24 August

Featuring work by Monique Berard, Brogan Findlay, Giselle Fortune, Phoebe Hinchliff, Liam Krijgsman and Sabrina Palmer.

Presented by second year sculpture students from the Ilam School of Fine Arts, WEB is an exhibition which reveals an intricate network of connections linking its outdoor site in the Okeover Community Gardens to other places, times, people, ideas, and imaginings.

The public, students, staff and their families and friends are warmly invited to the opening from 4.30pm on Tuesday 16 August in the Okeover Gardens, off Engineering Road at UC.

An artist talk will be held on Saturday 20 August at 11am. This will be an informal opportunity to meet the artists, ask questions and engage with contemporary art.

Managed by the UC Sustainability Office, the Okeover Community Gardens is a shared space where the community works together growing and sharing food and learning new skills. It employs sustainable growing methods and is part of a network of such gardens across Christchurch. It is also a tranquil retreat for relaxation. The artworks explore these concepts as well as the wider context of the site from different perspectives. The exhibition attempts to unearth layers and connections on and in the garden grounds. It examines the garden’s past, present and parallel existences and its placement within the wider surroundings of the university campus, whilst also considering the garden’s values and the interactions it facilitates.

Individual artworks consider ideas as diverse as the brutalist architecture of the university, people’s subconscious states, the transformation of language, the prehistory of the site, the relationship between natural and artificial, and the residue left by imaginary inhabitants.

Gardening and contemporary art communities can appear exclusive; WEB aims to draw the fine arts and sustainability communities, staff, students and the public together, inviting them to build connections.

For more information and updates on the event of bad weather visit:

Course Coordinators can review notes from Peer Notetakers

Along with other changes this year, the Disability Resource Service (DRS) has swapped to using Learn as a hub, where students receiving peer notetaking can download their lecture notes. A page called ‘Disability Resource Service – Peer Notetaking’ has been set up for this purpose and Course Coordinators now have access to this page.

Ensuring that students with disabilities receive access to high quality lecture notes is a priority for DRS. Course Coordinators are invited to review the notes from their course/s in Learn and provide feedback on the quality to:

Disability Resource Service

Cook Islands Language Week – Reconnecting with my culture

Kia orana! Cook Islands Language Week runs from 31 July until 6 August. In New Zealand, just over 20% of our Pacific population are Cook Islanders (61,839 people), our second largest Pacific ethnic group. UC currently has around 50 students with Cook Islands heritage.

We asked one of our Cook Islands students, MahMah Timoteo, to talk about why the week is important to her.

– by MahMah Timoteo

Cook Islands Language Week means different things for different people. For me, the week symbolises a means to rediscover and reconnect. The first time I realised I was a Cook Islander was the day my mother gave me a stuffed bear with a little palm tree on the front of it. I later learned that my father was born in the Cook Islands. I however, was born in Australia along with my sister and brother. Growing up, I was completely disconnected from any form of Cook Island culture or heritage. When I moved to New Zealand, I felt what little Pacific Island identity I had was slowly weltering away.

I spent 13 years living on the West Coast of the South Island. My siblings and I were some of the only Pacific Island students at the school. That was up until Year 12, when I was blessed to make the acquaintance of my still good friend Catherine, a girl from the Solomon Islands. I first found out about her arrival when one of my friends burst through the common room doors and shouted: “There is someone here that’s blacker than you!” To this day, that comment still makes my stomach turn. Looking back now, I realise just how narrow minded some people can be when it comes to embracing people from various ethnic backgrounds.

I came to the University of Canterbury in 2014. Here, the Pacific Development Team welcomed me with open arms and a great deal of food. This was the first time in my life that I found a community of people that were willing to accept me for who I am and where I come from.

MahMah Timoteo (in the red t-shirt)
MahMah Timoteo (in the red t-shirt)

Today, I am proud to say that I identify as a Cook Islander and yes, sometimes it is a bit disheartening not being able to speak the language or understand certain cultural practices. Nevertheless, this is what Cook Islands Language Week is all about. It is about celebrating your Cook Islands identity, whilst also embracing the language and culture. But this week is not only for Pacific Islanders. This week is about exploring diversity from the hearts and minds of different people all over New Zealand. This week is an opportunity to educate people and learn from one another, to bring our future generation of children up to be accepting and tolerant of individuals from all walks of life and to avoid situations like my friend Catherine had to endure.

New Zealand is a beautiful and diverse place, take every opportunity you can to embrace this to its fullest. Be proud of who you are and where you come from and if you aren’t willing to embrace the language, at least embrace the food. It is no secret that food makes the world a better place, especially if you’re a Pacific Islander.