To grow or to slow?

In the climate of fear and instability caused by the Covid-19 epidemic, the Prudential Young Trailblazers Competition (PYTB) were faced with the pertinent question – to grow or to slow down?

A game changing characteristic of a trailblazer is one who sees every threat as an opportunity. For Acorn, as the organisers for this cutting-edge competition on innovation, this situation has become a true test if we are truly able to practice what we preach.

Rather than simply choose the easy way out and call it quits, Acorn rallied together and synergised a new way to do Hackathon Day – Online. Here is the run down –

First up, a whole host of different technologies was exploited. Be it group chats, broadcast, interactive webinars and virtual discussion rooms. While these cannot beat face-to-face communication, these technologies allowed trainings and brainstorming sessions to go on unhindered.

Quality was maintained via the input of professionals in the various fields as well. Be it the technical support for filming, editing and scripting or the trainer themselves. These allowed the content to be disseminated in a timely fashion and still maintain a level of interaction as well as comprehension.

With all the above in place, there remained the problem of coordination. From schools onsite, students in their homes and industry mentor online, there were many connections that had to be made on the day proper. This went on without a hiccup thanks to

  1. The industry mentors who skillfully managed their own domains
  2. Team Mentors that guided each team, providing constructive feedback in a timely fashion
  3. Satellite ICs who saw to it that every team stayed on task and had access to help if necessary

It must be highlighted that the participants who proactively came aboard also made the transition online a lot easier. Being digital natives, most students were able to adapt seamlessly to the new technologies activated and this allowed discussions and proposals to move forward effectively.

While the Hackathon Day was a success in the end, we acknowledge the challenges that we faced along the way. As the spread of the virus increased, so did the measures to curtail any form of mass gatherings. From doubts of the feasibility of the entire competition, to the shortage of face masks, thermometers and the like. And finally, the whole shift to an online platform, coordinating multiple locations, hosting the webinar as well as the 150 participants behind their screens.

This year’s PYTB has been an interesting one and the learning curve has been steep for everyone. Despite all this, at Acorn we believe in having a growth mindset, one that celebrates small wins and relies on the collective synergy of team. While postponing or even cancelling the event was a possibility, we never saw that as an option. We hope that the resilience and innovation our team has demonstrated in the last few months and the months to come will inspire every PYTB participant to even greater aspirations in their own trailblazing journey.

The ONE highlight of PYTB 2020

– bringing the conventional innovation competition to a whole new creative level in the face of ever-evolving challenges of Covid-1

– When everyone advises us to postpone or cancel for the safety of all stakeholders, we have ensured safety, exercised social responsibility yet able to gather close to 200 people to have training, discussion, webinar & creation of their prototypes in their virtual discussion rooms.


  • Using various TECHNOLOGIES to facilitate the training, discussions & interactive webinar & submission of their work in virtual discussion rooms.
  • Employing PROFESSIONALS to video the training & make the training comprehensive, interactive, & discussable.
  • Having A TEAM OF PEOPLE who tirelessly tried and explore the various online platforms. Ability to have every individual participants to sign in remotely, virtual mass gathering in the zoom space, creating break out rooms for every team for their discussion with mentors who are guiding them step by step.
  • Engaging slightly more than 20 INDUSTRY LEADERS in their own domains to provide their problem statements and come online to have a quality discussion with the participants.
  • Having a lively discussion & demonstration via ZOOM. having the teams to interact, Q&A, and vote & contribute to the webinar discussion & training.

  • TEAM MENTORS who is guiding each team in every discussion and brainstorming ideas with the young participants. They provided ideas, resources, alternatives for the participants to be more exposed to varied ways of thinking that inspire them to think beyond the Box and know what is really happening out in the working world.
  • A group OF SATELITE IC: this team coordinates the team mentors and assist any teams who are going spiral or stuck in their discussions. They also coordinate and ensure that team mentors who gathered in each room that consists of not more than 10 pax, is also observing all the necessary measures to keep each other safe and socially responsible for each other.

Challenges faced

  1. Participating teams from various institutions began to doubt the feasibility of this PYTB competition as the measures rolled out by the government become stricter as the days go by. We manage their expectation and fears with built in measures that ensure the safety of participants as our 1st priority.
  2. Our resources becomes limited. We faced shortage of surgical masks & hand sanitiser & thermometers. We tried all means and ways to have access to all these necessary resource even when the prices of these items kept rising and because of the lock downs of neighbouring countries, therefore constant delay in the delivery of these items.
  3.  as there is constant update on the news in Covid-19 & the measures taken become inevitable tighter, we have to evolve the way we run the competition. even on the day before the hackathon day, we are still making necessary changes to ensure safety and quality. We kept briefing and updating our teams of mentors both industry & team mentors.
  4. When day by day, schools demanded that we cannot meet their students face to face and they will only continue in this competition if it is done remotely. We have to make a huge decision to shift the entire hackathon day ONLINE and we have to find a system & create a communication system to hold this competition and ensure the quality of discussion and competition and learning are never compromised.
  5. The final challenge is when we run out of venues to hold our mentors to gather and run this competition. With the help of friend, we manage to rent a place that provide us with various rooms and having the Wifi signal boosted up. All these to ensure smooth running of the hackathon day.