Sandbox Program

Students sitting around a table

Cultivating future-ready graduates is a shared goal between industry and higher education. Through UNSW’s Sandbox Program, we transform our courses into real-world “sandboxes”, bringing together students, academics, and the industry to co-create solutions for contemporary problems. The trilateral partnership empowers career-focused learning at scale, nurturing better-prepared graduate cohorts.

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Established in November 2019, the impact of the Sandbox Program has received recognition from several prestigious awards:

  • Heinz Harant Award for Teaching Innovation, by UNSW in 2020
  • National Award ICT Educator of the Year, by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) in 2019
  • John Prescott Award for Outstanding Teaching Innovation, by UNSW Business School in 2019


  • Contributing to the development of future-ready students through direct input into curriculum design and active involvement in challenge-driven education
  • Creating greater visibility and gaining direct access to bright and talented students while earning fresh perspectives and creative solutions to current problems
  • Opportunities to examine exploratory projects and develop meaningful relationships with leading academics


  • Expanding experience by working on real industry challenges with support from professionals
  • Gaining transferable skills required for success in our dynamic and evolving work environment by solving complex challenges in a collaborative setting


  • Fuelling the connection between the industry and higher education to cultivate graduates who are more work-ready
  • Developing meaningful relationships with the industry for continuous innovation in education and research
  • Over 2000 students have completed one or more Sandbox courses

  • 19 industry partners, and 94 industry representatives

  • Over 40 real-world projects completed; Over 330 unique solutions created

In a Sandbox, the industry partner works with the educator to:

  1. Establish a meaningful challenge

    The starting point of a Sandbox is the identification of a relevant, challenging task. Industry partners are invited to contact us to submit a Sandbox Challenge: an enticing and important problem that would benefit from a fresh perspective and would facilitate the acquisition of current knowledge.

    Educators with relevant interests and expertise will work with the industry partners to scope the challenge and embed it into an appropriate course as authentic assessment.

  2. Engage in co-creative learning

    In this step we navigate students through the challenge-driven learning process. Educators work together with the industry partners to co-design teaching materials and activities to support students’ problem-solving process and provide them with an authentic learning experience.

    Some common Sandbox activities include a kick-off session, industry-facilitated seminars, in-class role-playing or interview sessions, workshops and hands-on labs.

  3. Enrich the career-focused experience

    At the conclusion of the Sandbox, we review the solutions created by the students, provide feedback and guidance in their reflection and consolidation of learnings. This usually includes a formal session where students present their solutions to the industry partner and obtain feedback. The presented solutions can be of various forms depending on what aligns best with the Sandbox. Solution examples include a proof-of-concept, an information slide deck, a pitch, and a professional whitepaper.

    Click here to see past Sandbox project outcomes

    The trilateral relationship developed from the Sandbox engagement will continue to grow beyond this point. Subsequent engagement can take various forms, including a longer-term mentoring program, work-shadowing and internship opportunities, attending and co-hosting relevant events and more! Some of our past Sandbox students have commenced their careers in graduate and vacationer positions at the partner organization.

Why partner with the Sandbox Education Program?

  • Engage with our best and brightest students
  • Contribute to the development of the next generation of talent and leaders, providing students with direct insights into the latest industry challenges and the skills and technologies required to solve them
  • Build ongoing relationships and collaborate with our leading academics in both education and research.

Our Sandbox partners

Sandbox Projects Examples

  • The Challenge

    This Sandbox Challenge involved the development of transformative digital marketing solutions for an online-only fashion brand which sells predominately party, festival and fashion wear. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this brand experienced declining sales as people were not going to public spaces or events. How can they shift their business model to be more relevant, hit the new norm in consumer behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic, and prepare for post COVID-19 recovery?

    Students’ Solutions

    Over 10 weeks, students developed digital marketing solutions for this online retailer. Students analysed the reasons behind declining sales and suggested marketing plans for this business to adapt in a changing market to maintain their standing and improve their offering against competitors.

    Academic Mentor: Dr. Veronica Jiang (School of Marketing)

  • The Challenge

    This Sandbox Challenge involved students roleplaying in groups as the Head of IT Security at a large media company in Australia. The company faced some common challenges pertaining to large organisations such as a lack of security awareness among staff, ineffective controls and lack of executive buy-in. The company also recently suffered a data breach from a social engineering attack.

    Students were tasked with revitalising the company’s existing training program by re-designing their security awareness program, proposing a training session for employees specifically targeted at social engineering awareness and recommending technical controls for the protection of data.

    Students’ Solutions

    Over 8 weeks, students developed 18 unique security awareness programs. These programs featured gamified solutions, micro-learning education modules on mobile, interactive slide decks for face-to-face workshops and more. Technical controls proposals were also developed with feasibility analyses performed and third-party recommendations provided.

    Academic Mentor: Dr. Yenni Tim (School of Information Systems and Technology Management)

  • The Challenge

    An online retailer of wellness products already operating in Australia is looking to expand to the US market which already has a strong ‘inner beauty’ industry. They have a limited budget available, currently working with a budget between $10-20K per month and need to ensure a 4 to 1 ROI but know that there is a huge growth opportunity in expanding to the larger US market. How can they best take advantage of this opportunity into the US market, while still maintaining a profitable business in Australia?

    Students’ Solutions

    Over 10 weeks, students developed digital marketing solutions for this online retailer. Students figured out the pros and cons of expanding into the U.S. market and the main barriers for the potential expansion. Furthermore, students designed marketing campaigns targeting consumers in U.S. and campaigns to maintain Australian customers loyalty.

    Academic Mentor: Dr. Veronica Jiang (School of Marketing)

  • The Challenge

    This Sandbox Challenge involved students conducting maturity assessments on a superannuation company for their compliance with the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) CPS 234 regulation.

    Students’ Solutions

    Over 8 weeks, students devised 15 unique cyber maturity uplift plans. These plans addressed CPS 234 themes like policy frameworks, implementation of controls, incident management and more. Recommendations to uplift capabilities were provided with consideration for business and regulatory drivers.

    Academic Mentor: Dr. Yenni Tim (School of Information Systems and Technology Management)

  • The Challenge

    An online only home furnishing business has a high first-time purchaser rate, but low repeat purchases (second-time or more). They know once a user makes a second purchase, their value becomes far greater and they turn into a more loyal customer. How can the business grow more lifetime value from their customers?

    Students’ Solutions

    Over 10 weeks, students developed digital marketing solutions for this online furnishing business. Students analysed the reasons behind the low repeat purchase rate with online review data. Furthermore, students suggested creative marketing solutions to increase the repeat purchase rate and increase new customer basket value.

    Academic Mentor: Dr. Veronica Jiang (School of Marketing)

  • The Challenge

    This Sandbox Challenge involved students consulting for a large utility company seeking to undertake technology initiatives like integrating IoT devices and transitioning to the cloud to position themselves as a leading competitor in the utilities sector. To thrive in a sector that is facing an increasing number of cyber-attacks, the company required a plan to securely uplift their technology capabilities.

    Students’ Solutions

    Over 8 weeks, students devised 15 unique strategy plans. These plans utilised the Secure By Design methodology to ensure security is embedded within the transformation. Recommendations to securely uplift capabilities were developed with IoT and cloud vendor analyses performed.

    Academic Mentor: Dr. Yenni Tim (School of Information Systems and Technology Management)


  • Your Sandbox Challenge will be embedded into our courses, so depending on the size of the course, you can expect to get between 50-300 students engaging in your challenge! Students typically work on a challenge in teams of 5-6, over 4-8 weeks. Students who participate in a Sandboxed course will typically be in their penultimate or final year.

  • Yes, you are welcome to submit more than one challenge. We also encourage organisations to submit larger-scale challenges that requires interdisciplinary effort. Such challenges can be embedded into multiple courses offered by different faculties.

  • Each industry partner is going to work with one of our leading academics, who is also the lecturer-in-charge of the course, to co-design some learning materials and/or activities. The exact level of engagement will be negotiated between the industry partner and the academic, but a genuine commitment from the industry partner is expected.

Find out more about the program

Contact us

Dr. Yenni Tim
Founding Director, Sandbox Education Program
Connect with us on LinkedIn!