Designing solutions for real-world challenges

10 July 2020
Inter-disciplinary teams designing solutions to address the global pandemic
Students from the University of Sydney collaborated on applying design principles to real-world problems, developing solutions and pitching ideas in a 7-week design studio challenge.

Working in inter-disciplinary teams, students from across DesignArchitecture, Arts, Engineering and Business collaborated on a design brief to address a real-world challenge as part of the Design Major.

Students participating in the Innovation Design Studio, were tasked with developing design solutions to assist with the COVID-19 effort. Each team had to design a solution and business case to pitch to potential investors in only seven weeks.

Through interactive group work, students learned how to negotiate interdisciplinary requirements and boundaries that required the application of students' existing disciplinary skills combined with knowledge in an interdisciplinary context.

“The quick spread of COVID-19 impacted and subsequently created new challenges for governments, communities, and individuals. Access to real-time global and local data added to the complexity of the brief but represented the reality of such an unprecedented situation," said Dr Karla Straker, Director, Design Major Program.

Not only did students have to develop an innovative outcome to a complex and changing brief, but they had to innovate the way they worked as a team this semester. Teams were spread across multiple time zones, navigating the new way of learning online and coping with their unique situations, requiring them to collectively design a way they could effectively work together.
Dr Karla Straker, Director, Design Major Program.

Teams first identified a number of problem contexts and the needs of the stakeholders involved to design innovative solutions, which included new products, services and processes. Students came up with ideas to address emotional loneliness in our seniors, alternative learning assistance to support families in rural and remote areas, efficient infection prevention and control, and an educational boardgame for children.

Here, we share with you some of their innovative solutions:

Cure the Curve

"It is difficult to express complex and mature topics to children especially as a parent - how much do we tell them? How much do we censor? This has been especially prevalent with the global pandemic. How do we teach kids safe hygiene practices without scaring them?

We have created a card game that facilitates conversations between families about the importance of hand hygiene and world pandemics that are prevalent in today's climate. Our game is an educational tool that consists of four different situational cards and a tactile germ board."

Team members: Tony Pham, Elleni Poullos, Brooke Dickens, Margarette Nguyen

The Cleand Band

"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic essential workers are still required to go to their workplace. Many employees feel that their workplace is not providing them with the neccessary resources to protect the staff against COVID-19.

The Cleand Band is a hand sanitiser wearable that features a “no touch” system. The device dispenses hand sanitiser directly into the palm of the user."

Team members: Lauren Cislowski, Lisa Doan, Richard Goodman


"With seniors being at high-risk to COVID-19, physical health is not the only concern. Social distancing requirements mean that emotional loneliness is prevalent amongst Australia’s aging population, providing an opportunity for innovation. Therefore, how can we simulate real life and emotional connections for seniors when physical interaction is not possible?

Fusing traditional letter-writing with personalised and convenient technology, Quill will rewrite the way we connect with family and friends. Quill is a beautifully designed book from the outside and a powerful device from the inside. Share thoughts, memories, stories and experiences with loved ones by writing a letter with Quill."

Team members: Shanara Berriman, Yelena Cao, Nadeen Da’na, Caitlyn Burton


"With COVID 19, the majority of education in Australia has moved online. This being said, 15% of Australian households lack internet connection, and 40% of households rate their internet as 'poor'. As such, many young Australians are falling behind in their schooling not being able to access interactive or engaging content. 

STEMPAC is an organisation that aims to provide support to families in rural and remote areas, by supplying educational STEM based resources. Our purpose is to both maintain and foster an interest in STEM based learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The STEMPAC team curates’ packages that take a hands-on, self-sufficient learning approach, to keep children engaged during what is an increasingly turbulent time for rural learning. These resources are supplied at no cost to students or their families."

Team members: Julia Boylan, Charlotte Casmir, Ginger Edmiston, Jessie Potter