MRU team lands in top three in AmazonYYC Student Challenge

A white-board animation project, a mock podcast and a live action video filmed by Mount Royal University students were selected this week as the top Calgary post-secondary efforts to lure Amazon to Calgary.

With the city hoping to convince the Internet behemoth to locate a second headquarters in an underused downtown, Mount Royal University's Bissett School of Business put out a call last month for students' best and brightest ideas to help generate support for Amazon HQ2.

Calgary's bid was officially forwarded to Amazon on Thursday, Oct. 19.



"Amazon HQ2 will transform the winning city," said Elizabeth Evans, PhD, Dean, Faculty of Business and Communications Studies at Mount Royal.

"The AmazonYYC Student Challenge is about harnessing the creativity of the thousands of university and college students to make a difference to their city and their future."

Imagine, it's Jan. 1, 2027. Amazon HQ2, a second headquarters for the online retailing titan, has utterly transformed the city. In 2026, Calgary was awarded The Best City in the World to Live In by a major consulting firm. It is recognized as a progressive and diverse place with a thriving arts and culture scene, its start-up sector has exploded and its growth now rivals some of the biggest cities in the world.

Calgary's universities have grown dramatically as they introduce new programs that support the city's shift to high-tech powerhouse, while the arrival of Amazon has also ushered in improvements in social metrics ranging from equality to affordability to homelessness and health.

That's the scenario students were asked to consider for AmazonYYC Student Challenge, a crowdsourcing initiative organized by Bissett School of Business, answering a call for ideas from Calgary Economic Development.

Students were encouraged to take the scenario further and consider how different aspects of the city were transformed by Amazon HQ2. To do that, they could use a short film or video, an infographic, an advertisement, a graphic novel, a song, podcast or short story.

"We wanted students to envision the impact on all sectors of our society, from entrepreneurs to arts and culture to education to social services and Indigenous communities (to just name a few)," says David Finch, PhD, professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Social Innovation at Bissett School of Business.

"It's a medium for post-secondary students in Calgary to get involved and envision the impact of HQ2 on their city."

Teams of up to six students were encouraged to use any outside resources they could find. The contest was open to students in any discipline in any university or college in Calgary.

A panel of judges selected the top three based on their ability to tell stories and to inspire. The winning submissions are now up online.

Winning team Dream Big's entry, titled "On the Way to Success," features whiteboard and marker animation with a voice-over.



In second place was Spotlight YYC's "The Amazon Effect," an imaginary podcast produced using SoundCloud.



Third place finisher Focal Point, made up of students from Mount Royal, in a submission titled More Time To Live, created a more elaborate video with live actors portraying a Calgary of the future where transportation has been transformed by Amazon's project, freeing residents from sitting in traffic and giving them more time for outdoor pursuits.

"It was intriguing to create a project with the purpose of inspiring Calgarians," said Mount Royal team lead Piper Goodfellow. "It was also intriguing to compete with other talented students around the city, research the actual impact Amazon would have on Calgary, and do it all on such a tight timeline.

"I think Amazon would bring a new and exciting energy and momentum to Calgary. I love this city and believe it's full of really powerful people with big ideas. We have all the right ingredients, with a jump-start like Amazon, this city could take off."


In another submission titled "The Missing Piece Poster Series," submitted by team PuzzledYYC, Amazon is portrayed as the missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle made up of other key sectors in Calgary's economy. Team JMZs uses Prezi to describe a Calgary of the future as a thriving education hub, driven by Amazon HQ2 and education-related products like the Amazon Echo. Team MD+3, meanwhile, imagines Amazon HQ2 in Calgary becoming an "epicentre for reconciliation" with Indigenous peoples.

The Calgary Economic Development AmazonHQ2 Marketing Committee included current Mount Royal marketing student Tyler Barbieri and marketing alumna Chantal Padavattan, along with executives from a range of Calgary companies.

"Amazon explicitly identified post-secondary education as a critical dimension of HQ2," said Lisa Corcoran, Vice President, Marketing & Communications Calgary Economic Development. "The fact that all our universities and colleges collaborated so quickly on the Student Challenge speaks to the innovative and agile partners Amazon is looking for."

Amazon claims that the winning metropolis could see up to 50,000 fulltime employees earning an average of $100,000 a year working at the second headquarters that is expected to involve more than $5 billion in capital expenses over the next 10 to 15 years.



The Government of Alberta is also in on the act with The Amazon HQ2 Leadership Team that is helping Alberta cities bidding on Amazon's HQ2, including identifying opportunities for the provincial government to support their bids.

Calgary and Edmonton both expressed interest in wooing Amazon. Cities across North America are also expected to vie for the project. Amazon says the final site selection will be announced in 2018.


Learn more about the Bissett School of Business.


Oct. 19, 2017 — Peter Glenn

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