Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year Award

Trina Myers

Finalist of the Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year Award

"Creating tomorrows innovators by embedding a techno-preneurial culture across degrees"

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I saw an opportunity to address the skills gap in coveted high-order/soft-skills such as Design Thinking (DT), creative-thinking and problem-solving during the 2015 refresh of the Information Technology degrees at James Cook University. Instead of creating one capstone subject in DT (the most common implementation), I decided to implement a unique longitudinal-learning strand of DT subjects across the 3-year degree.
I developed the unique “IT@JCU” Design Sprint as an “authentic assessment”. This two-day off-campus event is a major component of the DT strand that brings together all IT students, educators, regional community and ICT industry to solve grand challenges and all stakeholders gain from the experience (win/win/win): The Sprint has gained so much attention that it now has over 40 companies fly into regional North Queensland (Townsville and Cairns) to take part.
There are no other regional universities that can claim they draw major companies to invest money in attendance, sponsorship and prizes for what is basically an undergraduate assessment piece. Regional universities in remote locations often struggle to engage large metropole-based organisations as industry partners in education, which means that regional students do not have the same close connections with industry as their metropole counterparts. Certainly, local industry partners are highly engaged with the university but student access to large organisations such as IBM, Oracle, etc is limited.
Results now show IT@JCU graduates are applying for and successfully getting coveted graduate positions due to their capabilities in DT, ideation, interviewing, pitching and empathy matched with well-developed technical skills.

Key People

Dr Dianna Hardy
Senior Lecturer
Discipline of IT and Computer Science,  James Cook University

Beau Tydd MACS Snr CP
ACS Qld Branch Executive Council and Qld Gold Coast Chapter,  Australian Computer Society


All past and present Information Technology students at James Cook University Rochelle Finley, Director, JCU-Connect, James Cook University Matt Steine, Chief Innovation & Investment Officer, Townsivlle City Council Nicole Lucas, Head, Strategic Engagement, , Smart Precincts NQ, Townsivlle City Council Madisen Ecker, Project Manager, Smart Precincts NQ, Townsivlle City Council All past and present Companies who have participated in the Design Sprint: Acer; Aptissio; Aurecon; Australian Computer Society; Australian Government, Department of Innovation and Tourism Industry; Australian Institute Marine Science; Big Mate; Cairns City Council; Cardno; CocaCola Amatil; Commonwealth Bank Australia; Cowboys NRL; CSIRO; Daktech; Dell; DevNQ/RANlytics; Downer; EnergyQLD; Fierce; Finance One; FloodMapp; GHD; Glen Richards Group; Glencore; Harvey Norman; i4d; IBM Analytics; InnovateNQ; ISS; JESI; Koorca; Ochre Sun; Open Fund; Optus; Oracle; Queensland Fire and Emergency Services; Queensland Airports Ltd; Queensland Health; RIoT Solutions; Rockfield; SafetyCulture; Sales Fit; Sister City Partners; Solar Relief; State Emergency Service; Suncorp; TechnologyOne; Telstra; Townsville City Council; Townsville Hospital & Health Service; Vertiv


Figure 1- The LitheSpeed model aligned to the three-year design thinking strand.

Figure 2 - Ideation stage

Figure 3 - Subject Matter Expert testing after 1st ideation stage

Figure 4 - 2017 Design Sprint held in 2 hangars at Townsville Airport - Theme: Water Resilience

Figure 5 - 2018 Design Sprint held in 2 hangars at Townsville Airport - Theme: Sustainability

Figure 6 - 2019 Design Sprint held in Cruise Terminal at Townsville Port - Theme: Disaster Management

Figure 7 - Design Sprint local and national industry partners participate as SMEs and mentors for the full 2 days

Figure 8 - 2019 Testing low-fi prototype with SME day 2 prior to final protype and pitch.

Figure 9 – Some of the companies involved in the Design Sprint 2016-2019 invested in this curriculum-based authentic assessment.


Impacting lifes

One of many anecdotal examples: A recent graduate sent me feedback describing how the Design Thinking strand built the skills that has helped her obtain her dream graduate job and has also been integral in early success:

Hi Trina, The design sprint is a great example to use in job interviews because it covers a large variety of questions (and how I got a fantastic grad position at IBM!). The experience I gained from doing design thinking in IT helped me to participate in the IBM Garage Bootcamp. This was, essentially, a mashup of a design sprint and a start-up weekend, a new enterprise offering described by IBM as “speed of a start-up, with the scale of an enterprise”. This bootcamp was offered to all business units across the IBM Asia-Pacific region (business sector, technical sector, etc). Across all Asia-Pacific, approximately 180 people applied to be in the bootcamp. I was merely a new starter. I had been at IBM for 3 weeks (in a highly technical role), and applied on a whim, detailing my experience with 3 years of design thinking and sprints. To my utter surprise, I was accepted as one of the eighty people who would be taking part in this bootcamp. Our team came third, and our solution has been presented to the client for possible implementation (very exciting!). This experience has been invaluable and depending on whether the client wants to move forward with our idea, it could be life-changing for everyone in our team!


Lessons learned

Lesson 1 – Serendipity is your friend: Recognise potential opportunities in serendipitous moments. In 2015, the CEO of Townsville Airports Ltd mentioned in conversation a desire to hold a hackathon at the international terminal. I suggested we so a Design Sprint instead as the students needed to do this as part of their degree. This first off-campus sprint had such immense impact for all students/industry involved as you could see the intense engagement as soon as you walked into the airport (100% student engagement for 2 full days is an educator’s dream!).

Lesson 2 – Aim for bigger than big, even if you only reach big you are still winning: After the success of the 2015 DS, I recognised the start of something I could grow into something great. I knew we would have all 1st-3rd year students in 2017 so had already outgrown the terminal. Townsville Airports offered the use of a large hangar, which caused great excitement for the students. We have continued to grow bigger each year with more industry partners and students.

Lesson 3 – Growth pains/opportunities: The continuing growth of the DS poses real challenges/risks in costs. However, with growth there was the opportunity to expand ownership of the sprint beyond the university to the wider community. To manage the costs of the events, I created a sponsorship “chip-in” model that allows industry partners to contribute. The DS is now owned by the local community, the regional councils, participating industry partners and James Cook University.


What's coming?

The underlying key motivation in all my efforts is employability and work readiness of our graduates.

Continued expansion: I have plans to continue to grow the JCU Design Sprint by making it a full community owned event in collaboration with our local Councils and Chambers Commerce in Townsville and Cairns. By partnering with local government and business community, the sprint can scale in a sustainable way. This event continues to create interest from industry partners and companies not yet involved are requesting participation at the next event. This “buy-in” from industry is the key to growth and graduate employability as well as benefit to the North Queensland regional cities. Growing the collective intelligence: I intend on growing the number of disciplines/degrees. In future events, the Sprint will not only have all Information Technology/Computer Science students participate but other areas of knowledge (e.g., Engineering, Creative Arts, Business, Law, Health Science, etc) to truly tap into a collective intelligence for real entrepreneurial problem-solving and innovation.

Expand employability opportunities: There have been so many incredible ideas/solutions from each Sprint. However, the outcome of a Sprint is at most a low-fidelity prototype or mock-up. I am also working with the Councils and the Industry partners involved to dove-tail the sprint with internships so students can take their solutions to the next prototyping step or minimal viable product by co-developing with our partners.


450 students/year

Students in the JCU Design Sprint

50 national and international companies

Sponsors taking part in Design Sprint


Industry partners taking part


Job success stars

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