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Challenging students to create a brighter future for books

1 June 2017
Undergraduate students solve real-world challenges for Dymocks
Students from the University of Sydney have competed in a challenge to create a future concept for Australia’s leading bookseller, Dymocks.
Winning students Stephanie Ryan (L) and Swetha Das (R) with Dymocks Managing Director Steve Cox.

Winning students Stephanie Ryan (L) and Swetha Das (R) with Dymocks Managing Director Steve Cox.

Following last year’s successful inaugural competition, this year’s Dymocks Innovation Challenge saw undergraduate students from a range of disciplines – including architecture, the arts and social sciences, business, engineering, IT, law and science – work in teams to solve real-world challenges for Australia’s largest book retailer.

Teams of students had 10 weeks to collaborate on fresh ideas to give the national book retailer’s customers an improved experience that is more relevant in today’s world of rapidly-changing technologies. Some teams focused on strategies to encourage young people to read or used new technologies to create communities of booklovers, while others came up with marketing strategies to reinvigorate the Dymocks brand.

The students filmed video pitches, undertook mentoring sessions with the Dymocks leadership team, and refined their ideas using design-thinking practices before presenting to a panel of industry judges on Wednesday 31 May at the University of Sydney.

The competition was won last night by Stephanie Ryan and Swetha Das, two Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences students who took a cash prize of $5000. Their winning concept, DymQuest, is an app which gamifies reading and encourages children to develop their literacy skills by undertaking reading ‘quests’ and earn rewards on the way.

Stephanie and Swetha were delighted to take out the top spot at the awards. “It was a refreshing opportunity to use our studies in a real-world setting. We’re both passionate readers who enjoy using creativity to help others,“ Stephanie said.

Mr Steve Cox, Dymocks Managing Director, said the winning team’s insights into the motivations of young readers was a stand out amongst the presentations. “DymQuest showed clear understanding of Dymocks' core values and the importance of early literacy. Their creative approach in using digital technology and reward-based learning offered a different way to engage young booklovers both instore and online.”

The overall calibre of entries was outstanding. “We were impressed with the quality and creativity of all the students’ work. The objective of the Challenge is to help generate, promote and reward commercial and innovative thinking among undergraduate students at the University and we weren’t disappointed. The future of Australian innovation is in good hands,” Mr Cox said.

The future of Australian innovation is in good hands
Steve Cox, Dymocks Managing Director

The Dymocks Innovation Challenge is run by the University of Sydney’s Student Leadership Academy (SLA), a student-led initiative designed to develop the nation’s future business and ideas generators.  

SLA originated in the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies in 2014, and has since grown to include more than 400 members from diverse disciplines and backgrounds.

Professor Pip Pattison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the University of Sydney, congratulated the finalists: “These students were offered a space to test their ideas, learn from each other, take leadership of a real-world project – and their final designs and concepts are an excellent demonstration that they have been able to think critically, collaborate effectively across disciplines, and solve problems creatively.”

“Undergraduate students clearly benefit from and enjoy this sort of innovative teaching and learning method, which allows them to work on genuine issues faced by a real company, with students from other disciplines, and also work online in a virtual space,” said Professor Pattison.

“These elements are also key components of our transformed undergraduate experience.”

Professor David Lowe, Associate Dean (Education) in the Faculty of Engineering and IT, said: “The Dymocks Innovation Challenge also demonstrates the commitment of the Faculty of Engineering and IT to a strong engagement with industry, as well as to providing our students with the opportunity to develop not just strong technical skills but an ability to understand the complex contexts in which they can be innovatively applied.”

Dr Ehssan Sakhaee, Director of Undergraduate Leadership Program, School of Civil Engineering, added that the aim of the Dymocks Innovation Challenge was to help students develop teamwork and leadership skills by "working in interdisciplinary teams on real-world problems and challenges".

Dymocks supported the ongoing endeavours of the Student Leadership Academy with a philanthropic donation.