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Exploring through Design-athon

By Vaness Yap, Bachelor of Psychology

From an idea to an experience

What is it like to participate in a Design-athon? In September, I took part in one, and even though I am a newbie, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The Remarkable Design-athon, made possible by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, aims to "develop tech and innovation for the inclusion of people with disabilities" with a "4-week challenge that invites budding entrepreneurs to solve problems identified by [their] community using an inclusive design methodology" (Remarkable, 2021). Initially, the idea of participating in a design-athon intimidated me. I imagined design-athons to be as competitive as hackathons, where proficiency in coding was typical and crucial across all competitors.

One of my favourite parts was working together with a committed and exciting group. It was a refreshing and fulfilling experience, mainly because we worked toward a greater good. I found myself looking forward to our Zoom meetings to shape our concepts and share new ideas. I love how over time, there was no “I” but a resounding “we” as we talked in different time zones with an enthusiastic spirit.

We started with an idea and created a compelling solution that can significantly impact the lives of people living with a disability. Our team brainstormed many brilliant ideas, which became integral features of the product, during our many virtual Zoom meetings. Every teammate brought different points of view that shaped our solution. I learned how important it was to understand the strengths of each team member and even how vital it is to utilise everyone’s skills.

We also used several platforms to manage our many projects and collaborations efficiently. I am blown away by how much medium makes a difference in making teamwork and communication an easy and enjoyable task. I enjoyed the process of easing into the forum, bouncing between different channels, and celebrating team successes with fun emojis! I realised that most of this software became crucial when we started working together on our pitch presentation.

At the end of the month, our effective teamwork allows us to proudly present our products before competitors, providing our solution with transparent features and a seamless user experience. While we didn’t win, we got an honorary mention! As I reflect on the numerous rewarding feelings during this design-athon, I genuinely believe there are no losers in a design-athon, only winners! Will I participate in another one? Absolutely and I encourage others to do the same. It is one of those experiences that I guarantee you will not regret, and remember the event feeling happy, proud, and satisfied.

What inspired me to participate was the theme of this design-athon, “Good design enables, not disables,” focused on finding solutions to challenges faced by disabled users worldwide, using low-cost innovative technology.

The environment of the design-athon itself was surprisingly amiable. The atmosphere was friendly, and the mentors did not pressure us to come up with ideas. If anything, uncertainty and the desire to learn were more than encouraged. My team, in particular, though limited in our ability and minimal background on the theme, pressed forward in the project we felt very passionate towards. In our final presentation, we even listed our unanswered questions with the product we ideated.