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UC Student Event Planners Innovate In Time Of Change

University of Canterbury (UC) students challenged to create a “non-contact” event for the Covid-19 environment have come up with an online careers hub that uses leading-edge gaming technology.

Six teams of students took part in the Event Marketing Smackdown before the current lockdown began. Their mission was to develop an exciting event and a marketing campaign to promote career opportunities for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students in the fields of food, fibre and agritech.

Organised by University of Canterbury Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE) in partnership with Christchurch NZ, and supported by the Marketing Association, the Event Marketing Smackdown was open to anyone studying at UC.

The winning team in the “non-contact” category, which was created as pandemic alert levels rose, had five members – law students Emily O’Sullivan and Amelia McLuskie, and postgraduate international students Yutika Rangari, Maliha Gangat and Mohammad Mishfakul Kabir. The group won a $500 prize for their online interactive careers event concept: STEM Virtual Hub.

Emily says the experience was a lot of fun. “Overall I thought the challenge was a super supportive environment to learn from industry experts and create something that could be of great practical use.”

Her team’s innovative proposal – inspired by an interactive documentary by fafswag, an indigenous LGBTQ vogue dance collective – uses gaming strategies to motivate students to learn about career opportunities in the food, fibre and agritech industry.

The participants would be taken on an online journey, with links to videos about companies they’re interested in, FAQs, quizzes and networking opportunities. The hub wouldn’t require any face-to-face contact, making it safer in the Covid-19 environment.

All six teams worked on their event ideas for two days before pitching them to a panel of judges. The overall winners won $800 for a plan to use real world challenges that would connect STEM students with industry leaders in Canterbury; the team in second place won $400 for a “speed dating” type event with sustainable local businesses from the food, fibre and agritech sector; and third place went to a team that came up with a discovery race concept taking students on a three-hour walking circuit around central Christchurch businesses.

The winning ideas will eventually be turned into reality with the top teams working with ChristchurchNZ to deliver their event when it is safe for them to go ahead.

UCE Director Rachel Wright says the collaboration with ChristchurchNZ gave students a great opportunity for real-world event planning. “The creativity and marketing know-how of the teams involved was amazing to see. We’re looking forward to their ideas being developed and realised at a later date.”

Robyn Cox Food and Fibre Specialist at ChristchurchNZ says it was impressive how the participants collaborated and found solutions at a difficult time. “The challenge has provided ChristchurchNZ with a number of excellent event ideas we hope to develop further, possibly modified for an online environment, due to current circumstances.”

Marketing Association Southern Region Chair Michael Durie says every team exceeded his expectations with original and innovative tactics to engage and attract STEM students.

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