“What Now?” Chronicling TEDxYouth@Colombo 2016

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“What Now?” is a series of TEDxYouth events that took place all over the world during the past weekend. Sri Lanka being no exception, witnessed its own TedxYouth Weekend event. Organized by the TEDxYouth@Colombo folk, the event was held at Trace Expert City on Sunday 20th November 2016.

The event started off with a few TED talks streamed via YouTube.

Following that, we saw Dr. Dananjay Kulkarni take the stage for the breakout session.

He began his session by asking everyone to form small groups. The challenge for these groups was to create a paper plane. A paper plane which they had to ensure would fly from one end of the hall to the other. The planes were judged on the criteria of:

  • Creativity in design
  • Stability in flight
  • Flying distance

Once the rules had been made clear. The teams formed circles and started racking their brains. Time passed, and after almost half-an-hour the teams had built their paper planes and added a bit of color to them.

The teams working on their planes and testing them at TEDxYouth@Colombo (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)
The teams working on their planes and testing them at TEDxYouth@Colombo (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)

With that, the design phase of the airplane challenge came to an end. Now it was time for the teams to actually test their planes. One by one, the planes were taken to the testing grounds, which was the wide entrance to the stage.

TEDxYouth
Waiting for their dreams to take flight (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)

Once the teams had laid their planes on the runway table, Dr. Kulkarni gave a briefing reminding the criteria of the challenge. Once the briefing was done, the teams lined up on both sides of the testing ground. Some planes soared the skies like birds. Others took off and crashed back down to earth. Once the teams had done their test flights, the TEDxYouth@Colombo volunteers picked the winners. And the winning teams were crowned.

Vipul Redey was the guest speaker of the day for TEDxYouth@Colombo.

TEDxYouth
Vipul Redey addressing the audience

His opening question was “How many of you learned about Leonardo Da Vinci in school?” Adding to that, he also asked how many of us can list his inventions? Using an example of a teacher who wanted her students to appreciate Da Vinci’s inventions, Vipul goes on to share with everyone at TEDxYouth@Colombo that the students downloaded sketches, identified all components and then proceeded to build the inventions. Some worked, some didn’t. Regardless, all the students appreciated da Vinci.

A makerspace is a place where abstract ideas come to life. Children by nature, are makers. Makerspaces in education are not a new phenomenon. Before textbooks, we learned in maker spaces. To learn farming you had to go to a farm. To learn the art of blacksmithing, you go to a blacksmith.

“We learn best by doing.” – Vipul Redy

Makerspaces come in different sizes. From large labs in MIT to small community spaces. Regardless, the institutions that create these spaces need to be brave. It’s not simply a logistic or financial matter. The learning process as a whole need to change.

In a makerspace, a teacher is not the expert in going from point A to point B. In such classes, 30 students will have 30 ways of going from point A to point B. When building such spaces, it’s risky. Parents can be scared. Teachers are scared. A maker space needs an individual that holds it together who is tech-savvy, nurturing and creative. He concluded his talk sharing some examples of what students have built in maker spaces.

And then we broke for lunch

Following lunch we saw Chinthaka Abeysekera, CEO of Sisili Projects Consortium who was also at TEDxColombo a few months back. He was here to do a panel discussion on entrepreneurship. The panel had:

  • Chandi Dharmaratne, Senior Director – Human Resources at VirtusaPolaris
  • Dinesh Mendis – Director, Aitken Spence Group Ltd and also Head of Financial Solutions Segment at Aitken Spence
  • Aelian Gunawardene – Managing Director at JAT Holdings
TEDxYouth
The Panel Discussion in full swing (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)

The panel opened with the first question by Chinthaka asking the panelists to define entrepreneurship. Chandi’s answer was pretty much textbook resembling the dictionary definition. Niresh, on the other hand, stated that in his opinion, entrepreneurship is much broader. For example, if you are doing things that your company has never done before, then that is a sign of entrepreneurship. Niresh then referred to an example of Aitken Spence going into power generation.

“When you enter an industry, you have to prepare for the risks in that field.”- Chinthaka Abeysekera.

Chandi then went onto talk about what intrapreneurship is. Afterwards, the panel touched on what one needs to do to succeed as an entrepreneur today.

What next? Well, we wrote a song

Once the panel discussion ended, it was time for some lighthearted fun. Two musicians took the stage. One with a violin, another with a guitar. They play a tune and then we hear from the MC that its time for everyone at TEDxYouth@Colombo to write a song. And so we had a few brave souls give a line for the song.

The song we made and bringing it to life at TEDxYouth@Colombo (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne and TEDxYouth)
The song we made and bringing it to life at TEDxYouth@Colombo (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne and TEDxYouth@Colombo)

Alain Sibenaler was up next as a breakout session facilitator

TEDxYouth
Alain Sibenaler addressing the audience (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)

He opened by sharing the story of his rough childhood and proceeded to explain how everyone has the potential to be a leader. He also emphasized that women deserve equal rights.

A woman should not be held back simply because she is a woman.

Disturbingly, 90% of women in Sri Lanka have faced sexual harassment. This is definitely unacceptable.

Alain then went on to explain that Leadership comes with a bunch of things. He refers to these things as a pyramid of leadership. The first level is the way we interact. Our feelings, our emotions, our thoughts. We have to be confident about ourselves.

“You cannot be a leader if you’re not confident with yourself”

The second level of leadership is about yourself. Who you, as a person, are passionate about. This is what makes you interesting.The third level revolves around systems. Norms, laws, standards, regulations and also rather importantly, religion.

Next up was Shanuki De Alwis.

We previously saw Shanuki at TEDxColombo where she delivered a speech that literally brought the audience to their feet in delivering a standing ovation.

We wrote a story at TEDxYouth@Colombo. Shanuki's reaction should tell you what to expect (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)
We wrote a story at TEDxYouth@Colombo. Shanuki’s reaction should tell you what to expect (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)

Shanuki opened by talking about how the scripts of most Sri Lankan movies and commercial scripts, are generally bad. And we can attest to this as well. So her idea for the day was to show people how to write a great script. The key to a great script is to always keep your audience guessing “What now? What happens next?” whereas in Sri Lanka, it’s always “and then, and then, and then, and then” Rather mundane if you think about it.

The following script was a result of the ideas put forth by the audience at TEDxYouth. Be warned, it has its fair share of realism, plot twists and insanity.

The protagonist was Beyoncé. She had money, fame and everything anyone could want. Suddenly something happened. Her boyfriend broke up with her. To cap it all, the media is all over it and she has a kid too.

So what now?

So she calls her friends and goes on a holiday with them.

So what now?

Everything she sees gives her suicidal thoughts.

So what now?

She fell in love with her therapist. Okay that was unrealistic. Answers yelled from the audience range from her bumping into Channing Tatum to falling in love with one of her girlfriends. The latter was what the audience chose to go with. Afterward, her child then finds out about their relationship.

So what now?

Her daughter runs away.

At this point we had to assume that the internet was filtered and came to the event.

We actually made a story where Beyoncé is heartbroken after a breakup and goes on a holiday with her friends. Here she becomes a lesbian and her kid runs away.

Again the repeat point above. So we return to sanity. They form a search party and find her daughter on Christmas Eve. Beyond has a new wife too and then collaborates with Taylor swift for a breakup album. And so our story ended on a happy note. With that, Shanuki got into the more serious part of her talk.

TEDxYouth
Shanuki de Alwis doing what she does best (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne and TEDxYouth)

Shanuki asks, “What if Beyonce killed herself?” nothing else would happen. She shares that she’s prone to anxiety and depression. She shares that the youth today have expectations because there’s plan all laid out from start to finish. But there are plot twists in life. You can experience heartbreak, you may fail an exam, anything can happen.

“Your life will have a plot twist. Why don’t you rewrite your script?” – Shanuki De Alwis

Many of us realize that when a plot twist happens, we can’t deal with it. Shanuki refers to the story and asks everyone to apply this crazy story to your life. Rewrite your story. It doesn’t have to be the way you thought it was going to be. It just means you have a different ending. And it’s not suicide. In Sri Lanka, many suicide victims are young people who can’t deal with plot twists. Shanuki encourages everyone to rewrite their story and be creative when plot twists and write memorable plot twists.

Another successful TEDxYouth@Colombo came to an end

With those words of encouragement and another standing ovation, Shanuki’s session drew to a close. And with that, “What Now?” by TEDxYouth@Colombo came to an end. A stellar performance by the organizing committee and the speakers alike. We hope to be a part of TEDxYouth@Colombo for 2017 as well.

TEDxYouth
A picture says a thousand words. This is TEDxYouth@Colombo (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)

 

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