Group of winning students and Dymocks representative

Student Leadership Academy an ideas powerhouse

2 June 2016

A new style of teaching and learning is gaining popularity among University of Sydney students,  with more than 400 students signing up to the Student Leadership Academy  (SLA) kick-started early this year. Members have just successfully competed in the Dymocks Innovation Challenge. 

The SLA is a student-led initiative with a mission to “provide leadership development opportunities and projects that are relevant to the student experience, and directly benefit the university and wider community as a whole”.

It originated in 2014 with undergraduate students from Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, and has since grown to include more than 400 members from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. It has also now expanded to include students from other institutions.

The recent Dymocks Innovation Challenge was the ideal arena to test the ideas and teamwork of students from the academy. It was won this week by duo, Patrick Kien-Nang Nguyen, a Bachelor of Science undergraduate and Charles Zhang, who is studying for a degree in Commerce. The pair’s winning concept in the Digital Innovation category uses emerging VR technology to drop customers into a virtual bookstore, where users use ocular glasses to surf clusters of books based on data collected from ecommerce and Booklovers.

Meanwhile, in the Customer Engagement category,  a team of three double-degree students, Daiming Zhu, Jing Weng, Amy Fraser – all undertaking Bachelor  of Engineering Honours and Bachelor of Design in Architecture beat the competition with ‘PUBS’,  a pop-up book store designed to revitalise the flagging traditional bookstore model.


We view innovative teaching and learning methods as critical to helping students realise their full potential.
Professor Pip Pattison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education)

The Dymocks challenge was the first real-world task presented to the undergraduate cohort. Teams of Sydney Uni 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.  The winning teams each took home $5000 for their efforts.

Professor Pip Pattison Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) congratulated the ten finalist teams: “We view innovative teaching and learning methods as critical to helping students realise their full potential. 

“We are delighted to be supporting the SLA and to see students engage with students from other disciplines that they would perhaps not normally encounter.

“This type of active learning helps prepare them for the professional environments they will be employed in when graduating.   They gather professional skills that can be used in their future workplace.

“The students were also able to work together in a virtual online space.  We believe in this digital age where students are using iphones, tablets and ipads as learning tools, it is essential to provide them with the opportunity to learn in a virtual space.”

Students were supported throughout the challenge by industry mentors and experts. They also attended workshops on how to test their concepts, focus on the end-user, and to how to approach innovation as a continual process.

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


Victoria Hollick

Media and Public Relations Adviser
  • Level 5 School of Information Technologies Building J12