Alumna Azadeh Jamalian (Ph.D. 2014, Cognitive Studies), an entrepreneur, engineer, and cognitive scientist, designs learning toys and children’s apps, and builds innovation hubs and communities for children. Jamalian advocates for “playful innovation hubs” – dedicated spaces to dream up, create, test and share their ideas.

In this TED talk, Jamalian describes the Giant Room, a space she created that has four key ingredients that encourage and cultivate an environment for learning that could “potentially better prepare kids for the jobs we can't yet imagine”:

  1. A blank Canvas - paper, pens, markers, crayons that kids can use to create something and “build creative confidence.”
  2. Ups and Rounds Lab - where children gather and inspire each other to take on challenges they care about and think up solutions. Along the way, they learn new skills in order to prototype and test their inventions. (A six-year-old in her Ups and Rounds Lab developed and built a prosthetic arm.)
  3. Campfire - where children learn how to give and receive feedback without feeling defensive. “Kids rise up to it and provide genuinely insightful feedback,” Jamalian says.
  4. Stage and Spotlight - to share their stories and pursue others to follow their lead. “Only when they get to share their own thought processes, ideas, and creations, can they actually build a voice and start making a change,” she observes.

“When kids are given then chance, they’ll do amazing things,” Jamalian says. A dream innovation hub like the Giant Room “gives kids a chance to act on their most ambitious dreams.” 

“Almost every research study on what children need to thrive, screams the importance of letting them enjoy the process of learning and helping them feel capable to solve any problem that lies ahead.”

As a PhD student at TC, Jamalian co-founded Tiggly, a company that creates learning toys and apps for children where she is Chief Learning Officer. She served as a judge in the Innovation Awards Competition as part of Academic Festival 2019 in April.