the innovation issue – EMPATHY: THE MISSING LINK IN TEACHING INNOVATION TO KIDS

IGNITER SPACE

HASITHA YAGGAHAWILA
IGNITER SPACE
FOUNDING: 2016

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EMPATHY: THE MISSING LINK IN TEACHING INNOVATION TO KIDS

In February 2016, Hasitha Yaggahawila rallied his and his friend’s kids in his living room to teach them how to design a propeller driven car. The idea was to spark the kids’ creative spirit, which is not addressed in the traditional school education system. Eventually, these informal gatherings transformed into regular weekly sessions and more structured curricula. The photos of these sessions shared on social media garnered a quick following among parents. By mid-2017 his company, Igniter Space had more than 1,200 children complete its six-month courses in four education centers across the country.

“We teach kids to observe and identify pain points of somebody,” he says. Empathy is a central tenant in the education philosophy at Igniter Space.

“In most school exhibitions children make remote controlled cars, planes and cranes. If you ask them why they did it, they will say, because they liked it, or they thought it was cool” says Yaggahawila. “Ideally what they should say is, I saw my brother having this problem and this is a solution for that”.

Empathy is an explicitly emphasized quality in the Igniter Space class room. Most activities are based on real life situations. One such activity is the Fishermen problem. Students are asked to work on a prototype of a land-water hybrid vehicle specifically designed for fishermen to reduce the financial expenses of using two vehicles. ”Using this information we want them to solve the problem” he says. “It’s a technical creation, not something done just for the sake of fun. They create it because there’s a need” he says.