YiA Innovation Forum: Screens, Machines and Virtual Reality Dreams 2018-10-03T03:31:44+00:00

YiA Innovation Forum: Screens, Machines and Virtual Reality Dreams

Want to know what it’s like to be a professional robot builder? Or spend your days at Google dreaming up virtual reality field trips for kids? Or design a computer game that captures the world’s imagination?

Come to his years future-focused YiA Innovation Forum to find out. This year’s event features legendary innovators who have paved the way at Google, PlayStation, Maori TV and more.

When: Thurs 30 Aug, 7am – 9:30am
Venue: Classic Flyers, 8 Jean Batten Drive, Mt Maunganui 3116
Cost: From $50 including breakfast

Key speakers include:

SUAN YEO, Google

As Google’s Head of Education in Australia and New Zealand, Suan hopes to change the world, one educator at a time. After stints in the United States, Europe and Asia, Suan moved to Australia in 2008 to head up Google’s Enterprise SMB business for Asia-Pacific. Six years ago, he took on the challenge of starting the Education business unit for the region and has been innovating and growing that sector ever since.

Suan works tirelessly with educators and administrators to enable more effective teaching and learning within technology. “It’s all about the students,” says Suan, “and everything we do in Education needs to be driving towards better learning outcomes for the next generation of users.” Despite the magnitude of this task, Suan humbly and simply describes his job as doing really cool things that matter.

MARU NIHONIHO, Metia Interactive

Christchurch-raised Maru is the managing director and designer of award-winning video games at her company Metia Interactive. In 2007, her first commercial title, ‘Cube’, was released to worldwide acclaim, winning her a United Nations World Summit Awards Special Mention. She has since advanced the world of gaming from entertainment to therapy by developing SPARX, an educational tool wrapped within a 3D game to help rangatahi combat depression.

The game won multiple awards and Maru herself was awarded a New Zealand Order of Merit as well as Innovator of the Year in the MCV Pacific Women in Games Awards from Microsoft Xbox. Her latest game, Tākaro, is an interactive platform to strengthen rangatahi’s spatial awareness skills and encourage coding concepts that will build confidence in STEM. Maru sits on the Māori Television Board and in February 2018 she completed a Master’s Degree in Technological Futures.


Dr Alistair Scarfe grew up in agriculture where he developed a passion for using technology to improve farming. He earned a PhD in Industrial Automation after completing a Bachelor of Engineering with First Class Honours, both from Massey University. Alistair leads the Robotics Plus team in creating several world first and leading technologies across robotics, sensing, machine vision and AI. This technology has been applied into autonomous vehicles, fruit picking, fruit packing and scanning robotic systems.

Alistair’s work has been recognised with several awards, including: Highly Commended for Young NZ Innovator of the Year from the NZ Innovation Council; finalist for NZ Hi-Tech Young Achiever of the Year; won the Tauranga 2011 Rocket Young Innovator of the Year (under 40); the first scholar to receive the Dick and Mary Earle Scholarship in Technology for three consecutive years; and was awarded a ZESPRI Innovation Fellowship.