Engaging Rural Students Through Gamification: Yarl IT Hub Successfully completed the Second Iteration of “Puthiya Payanakal 2023”

Yarl IT Hub
12 min readSep 26, 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 last year’s impact here.

Introduction of puthiya payanakal book to Kn/Vadakachi central college students.

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.

Students of Kn/ Kilinochi Maha Vidyalayam engaging with the puthiya payanakal book introduction

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

Cover of level 1 book of 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.

An overview of Level 2- 2023

Cover of level 2 book of 2023

In level 2, students were introduced to several fundamental concepts in computer science. These concepts include logics, pattern recognition, encoding and decoding, algorithms, and flowcharts. Let’s elaborate on each of these topics:

  1. Binary Digits and Conversion: The first part of the book introduced students to the concept of binary digits, which are the building blocks of digital information. Students learned about the binary number system, which uses only two digits, 0 and 1, to represent numbers. They also learned how to convert decimal numbers (base 10) to binary numbers (base 2) and vice versa. This understanding is crucial for later topics such as encoding and decoding.
  2. Pattern Recognition: The second part of the book focused on pattern recognition. Students engaged in activities where they learned to identify patterns in various contexts, such as sequences of numbers, shapes, or colors. They were then encouraged to apply their understanding of the patterns to draw pictures or provide instructions to draw pictures based on a given pattern. This activity enhanced their logical thinking and ability to recognize and create patterns.
  3. Algorithms and Flowcharts: The third part of the book introduced students to algorithms, which are step-by-step instructions for solving a problem or completing a task. Students learned about the concept of if-then conditions, where they played games that involved following instructions to achieve a specific goal. They were introduced to logical conditions and decision-making processes. Additionally, students were introduced to flowcharts, which are visual representations of algorithms using different shapes and arrows to illustrate the flow of instructions. Flowcharts help students understand the logical structure of an algorithm and how different instructions are connected.
  4. Repetition or Loop Formats: The fourth part of the book focused on repetition or loop formats. Students learned about different types of loops, such as the for loop and while loop, which allow for the execution of a set of instructions repeatedly. They explored how loops can be used to automate tasks that require repetitive actions, and they learned how to construct loops within algorithms and flowcharts.

Overall, these concepts provided students with a solid foundation in computer science by introducing them to fundamental principles such as binary representation, pattern recognition, algorithmic thinking, and logical conditions. These concepts serve as building blocks for further exploration of computer science and programming at higher levels.

Students’ responses and statistical overview of level 2

A remarkable achievement of 2,547 students successfully completed level one and had been provided with level 2 books.

Out of these eager learners, an impressive 1,822 students actively engaged themselves in level 2, while 1,283 students successfully completed it.

Comparing the data from the two years, it is evident that the program has made substantial progress in student engagement and completion rates. In 2022, 628 students were engaged in level 2, which saw a notable increase to 1,822 students in 2023, marking a remarkable 290% growth in student engagement. Moreover, the completion percentage also experienced a significant boost, rising from 25% in 2022 to 50% in 2023, showcasing a 403% increase in successful level 2 completions.

These statistics underscore the effectiveness of the gamified approach employed by Puthiya Payanakal, which has captured the attention and commitment of students in rural areas. The program’s ability to blend educational content with interactive gaming elements has not only sparked higher engagement but has also led to improved completion rates.

An overview of Level 3- 2023

Cover of level 3 book of 2023

Level 3 of the Puthiya Payanakal program took students on an exciting journey into the world of programming with the introduction of the Python programming language. To make the learning experience more interactive and enjoyable, students were provided with five engaging projects that allowed them to unleash their creativity using Python’s turtle graphics module.

The projects involved drawing robots and intricate patterns, giving students hands-on experience in using Python to create visual designs.

In the fourth project of the Puthiya Payanakal program, students were introduced to the fascinating world of interactive Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs). This project allowed them to explore the concept of user interaction and create their own virtual screen pet.

Students were tasked with designing a cute and lovable character that would respond to their actions. Specifically, when the students placed their cursor over the screen pet, it would blush and smile in response. This interactive feature added an element of fun and engagement to the project, allowing students to witness the immediate impact of their actions on the virtual pet’s behavior.

The culmination of their programming journey was the design and development of a caterpillar game, which not only reinforced their coding skills but also provided them with the thrill of playing a game they themselves had created.

Some of the games built by students using python

It is worth mentioning that not all students had access to personal computers. In such cases, students utilized their school’s laptops and computers to complete the projects, showcasing their determination to make the most of the opportunity.

Support from teachers and principals played a crucial role in ensuring the success of the program for many rural students. These educators recognized the importance of computer literacy and went the extra mile to provide their students with the necessary facilities and guidance. Their support created an enabling environment where students could explore the world of programming, learn new concepts, and develop vital problem-solving skills.

Furthermore some students also used mobile IDLEs too.

By introducing students to basic variables and syntax in Python programming, the Puthiya Payanakal program empowered them with fundamental skills that serve as a strong foundation for further programming and logical thinking. It not only exposed them to a valuable skill set but also opened their minds to new possibilities and career opportunities in the digital age.

Students’ responses and statistical overview of level 3

The program’s commitment to inclusivity and its ability to adapt to the resources available in rural areas are commendable. Despite challenges, Puthiya Payanakal managed to reach and inspire students who may not have had access to computers at home. The combined efforts of students, teachers, principals, and the YIT team have truly made a difference in bridging the digital divide and nurturing a generation of tech-savvy learners in rural communities.

Conclusion and Awarding ceremony

The awarding ceremony of Puthiya Payanakal 2023

Yarl IT Hub congratulates all the students who successfully completed all three levels and were awarded an Arduino sensor kit at the ceremony on July 2nd, 2023 held at Thanthai Chelva Auditorium. This recognition is a testament to their dedication and commitment to learning and exploring science and technology.

Students getting their certificates and awards

Additionally, the recognition of the most engaged Zone, schools and teachers from each district during the awarding ceremony highlights the crucial role educators play in guiding and supporting students’ learning journeys. Yarl IT Hub acknowledges and honors these outstanding educators for their dedication and efforts in nurturing the young minds and inspiring a passion for science and technology.

Most engaged Zone schools awards received by the teachers.

You can see the complete awarding ceremony pictures here.

In line with their commitment to fostering a passion for science and technology among the students, Yarl IT Hub is planning to organize an Arduino session for all the hundred students. This session aims to engage the students in Project-Based Learning (PBL) and Arduino programming.

Most Engaging schools


The acknowledgement of the partners, volunteers, and individuals who contributed their time and knowledge to the success of the project is an important aspect of any project. These partnerships and support are crucial in providing the necessary resources and expertise to ensure the project’s success.

In this case, the Yarl IT Hub’s partners, including the ITEE Foundation, LBR Foundation, Serendip Foundation, and Aravanai.In addition, the team and volunteers who have dedicated their time and efforts towards the project have also played a crucial role in its success. The provincial Department of Education in the Northern province provided support in selecting and initiating the project at school level.



Yarl IT Hub

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