By Eli Scott (Year 1 EngSci)
A team of four Year 1 Engineering Science students recently won the Walmart Canada Case Competition at a national conference, competing against seventeen teams of upper year engineering students and professionals. Taylor Faiczak, Smile Peng, Catherine Guo and Donna Gao took the $1000 top prize at the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Conference in Toronto on January 26-27.
The teams were asked to use gamification to increase in-store customer engagement of young people at Walmart, specifically targeting millennials. The team designed a simple, on-cart device offering marketing and entertainment to customers while they shop. The device displays a bundle of items strategically selected by Walmart each week. Customers are able to earn rewards depending on how many items of the bundle they purchase. The device is also equipped with low fidelity games like tic-tac-toe to keep customers occupied while waiting in the check-out line.
“We were inspired by the ads that are on shopping carts and Kindles,” said team member Smile Peng. “We were mostly uninspired to create an app, which ended up being everyone else’s idea and made ours stand out.”
The team attributes their success to challenging their initial assumptions about the problem and breaking down terms like “gamification” before moving forward. The trust they had already built as friends and classmates allowed them to brainstorm effectively and share ideas that were more “out of the box” without fear of being judged.
The students appreciated that the case competition was a realistic industry problem and the process was an accelerated version of a real engineering design opportunity – incorporating both design and business aspects. They gained a greater appreciation and excitement for engineering as a career. “We’re so very proud of Taylor, Smile, Catherine and Donna for embracing this real-world challenge and working together to demonstrate how a practical solution can also be both creative and fun,” said Professor Deepa Kundur, Chair of the Division of Engineering Science. The team plans to work together on future projects at hackathons and other case competitions.
For more information on the conference, which also offered workshops, panels, and talks, visit the WISE Conference website.