Engaging Rural Students Through Gamification: Yarl IT Hub Launches Second Iteration of “Puthiya Payanakal”

Yarl IT Hub
6 min readMay 2, 2023


What is Puthiya Payanakal?

Puthiya Payanakal is a gamified rural engagement program initiated by Yarl IT Hub, with the goal of introducing innovation, technology, problem-solving, project-based learning, and STEAM fields to school students between the ages of 11–14. The project aims to enhance problem-solving and innovation skills of school students and prepare them with the necessary 21st century skills to compete in today’s rapidly changing technological world.Read about the last year’s impact here

The project has been received with overwhelming popularity and impact, prompting Yarl IT Hub to launch its second iteration. This year, the project is extended to over 12000 students in 250+ schools in the northern province, following the same format as the previous year.

For this year, the project was initiated at the end of January and is still ongoing, with a focus on rural areas where students often have limited exposure to technology and innovation. Puthiya Payanakal seeks to bridge this gap by offering a gamified learning experience that encourages creativity and problem-solving skills.

Through Puthiya Payanakal, students are provided with a platform to engage in project-based learning, which allows them to explore their interests and passions. The program also aims to foster an interest in STEAM fields by providing interactive activities, sessions, and challenges that promote scientific thinking and exploration.

In a long term perspective, we believe that Puthiya Payanakal provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain exposure to the world of technology and innovation. With the increasing importance of these fields in today’s world, programs like Puthiya Payanakal are essential in preparing the next generation for a future that is heavily reliant on technology and innovation.

The format

Similar to last year, this year’s Puthiya Payanakal program also features three levels of engagement. In level one, students are introduced to the concept of design thinking, which involves using a structured approach to solve problems and come up with creative solutions.

Level two builds upon the foundation of design thinking and introduces students to computational thinking. This level is designed to help students think like a computer scientist, and engage in algorithmic thinking, logical reasoning and problem-solving.

Finally, in level three, students are introduced to the world of Python programming. Python is a powerful, versatile programming language that is widely used in various fields, from web development to machine learning. This level is designed to help students gain a basic understanding of coding, and develop programming skills that will enable them to solve problems using code.

Each level is designed with interactive project-based activities, so that students can engage in self-learning and develop a hands-on understanding of the topics covered. The program aims to encourage students to become self-directed learners, who are able to explore new topics and develop their problem-solving skills on their own.

Through this approach, Puthiya Payanakal seeks to provide students with a comprehensive learning experience that not only introduces them to important concepts and skills, but also helps them develop a love for learning and innovation. By making learning fun and interactive, the program aims to inspire students to become lifelong learners who are equipped with the skills they need to succeed in the fast-paced world of technology and innovation.

An overview of Level 1- 2023

The first activity involves creating an origami frog and observing its leap. Through this activity, students learn about the science behind the frog’s movement and how it relates to the concept of design thinking.

In the second activity, students are introduced to the pulley system. They are asked to design their own pulley system and come up with a simple machine that can help ease their work. This activity not only teaches students about the basic principles of mechanics, but also encourages them to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions.

The third activity involves building a balloon car, which introduces students to the concepts of forces and energy. Through this activity, students learn about the science behind how objects move and how they can be powered using different forms of energy.

The fourth activity focuses on plane figures and 3D objects. Students are asked to create their own designs using these shapes, helping them to develop their spatial reasoning skills.

Finally, in the fifth activity, students are asked to design a working heart model to explore the circulatory system. This activity introduces students to the basics of human heart anatomy and physiology.

Note: All the pictures attached here are just a few sample responses we got from more than 3800 students.

Students’ responses and statistical overview of level 1

With the support of the Northern Province Education Department, the level one book of Puthiya Payanakal was distributed to almost 12,000 students in over 250 schools across all 13 zones of the Northern Province. Which includes around 11,000 hard copies and 1000 digital copies.

So far, 3,684 students have actively engaged with the activities.

Out of these 3,684 students, a total of 2,410 students have completed level one of the program and have progressed to level two. The remaining students are still in the process of completing level one.

While it is encouraging to see that a significant number of students have completed level one, there is still work to be done to engage the rest of the students who have the potential to benefit from the program. The Pudhiya Payanakal team continues to work with the Northern Province Education Department, schools, teachers, parents and students to encourage more students to actively engage with the program and develop their problem-solving and innovation skills.

Over the year, we are seeing encouraging progress, with a significant 13% increase in students’ engagement rate. This increase is a positive indication of the program’s impact on students’ interest in STEAM fields and their problem-solving and innovation skills.

Furthermore, completion rates have also increased by 7%, demonstrating that students are actively participating in the program and taking full advantage of the opportunities it provides. It is heartening to see that more and more students are showing a keen interest in the program and are motivated to complete it.

It is exciting to report that all students who have completed level 1 of the Puthiya Payanakal program are now actively engaged in level 2. As the project progresses, we will continue to provide updates on the students’ progress and the impact of the program on their learning and development. Stay tuned for more updates on level 2 of the Puthiya Payanakal program, and the stories of the next generation of problem-solvers and innovators in Northern province.



Yarl IT Hub

Yarl IT Hub is a not for profit social enterprise focused on fostering innovation, entrepreneurship and technology in Jaffna.