The energy level was still high at the end of our first long day of the K_Space conference at the Karkhana premises today.

Twenty participants working across South and Southeast Asia have gathered to share our various skills and expertise, including educators, designers, social entrepreneurs, makers and the Karkhana team.

“Just to have the opportunity to work with such a diverse group is fascinating. You have a guy from Switzerland, a guy from England, a girl from Malaysia,” said Milan KC, principal of Gurukul school in the Pokhara valley. “I was very much struck by their way of thinking. It’s refreshing. You feel like you’re growing.”

Reframing the given challenge into a time-traveling fairy tale, Milan KC (L), Marc Dusseiller (2nd L) and took an out-of-the-box approach to our task of sending Kakhana's Irina Sthapit (C) to the moon "in style."

Reframing the design challenge into a time-traveling fairy tale, Milan KC (L), Marc Dusseiller (2nd L) and Sanim Shrestha (R) took an out-of-the-box approach to our task of sending Kakhana’s Irina Sthapit (C) to the moon “in style.”

The goal of the 10-day conference is to co-develop a space technology curriculum for young students. But the joy has been in the coming together of so many out-of-the-box innovators, and preparing to puzzle through our hackathon-style challenges together. Over ten days, the three teams will build­ – and find the best way to teach students to build – a DIY antenna, a water rocket, and an enhanced “space experience.”

Though most of us were meeting for the first time, the ice was quickly broken thanks to the nonstop interactive sessions that filled the schedule. Almost as soon as we has introduced ourselves, we were sharing how we understand the word “science,” and what it meant to us to “be authentic.”

Design thinking was the order of the day. Karkhana’s founder Sakar Pudasaini introduced the organisation’s own teaching philosophy, which is firmly rooted in this principle.

This was underscored the Human-Centered Design workshop facilitated by co-organizer Hermes Huang, whose Bangkok- and Singapore-based company DSIL specializes in professional training on this very subject. Participants broke into pairs and were asked to interview each other about what would constitute their perfect wallet for them, and then build protoypes.


Leo Jofeh and Karkhana’s Sachet Manandhar, designing the perfect wallet, at the Human Centered Design workshop

“That workshop was a real shift for me in the way I think about design,” said Leo Jofeh, educational robotics specialist and designer based in Phnom Penh. “I was forced to listen very, deeply. I began to think so much about the other person that the wallet itself started to seem irrelevant, I just became focused just helping this person and meeting their needs.”

The experience also resonated with John Cousins, a China-based curriculum designer. “It made me think about how we could involve students in the process, helping to design the experiences that they have, how powerful it would be.”

Keeping such an open exchange productive requires a proper framework, John said, and this workshop provided some potential tools. “It takes a lot of planning, thought and structure. Any step towards giving participants more autonomy and choice, there’s time lost because if you’re sharing power you have to communicate more. But you gain time back because you have more effort, more engagement, more involvement.

Milan hoped to bring some of these forward-thinking philosophies back to the students of his school. “Going through the curriculum is really boring for kids. I think we’re killing their creative minds. We’re just feeding them grassfeed. I’m trying to change that.”



By the end of the day we broke into teams and got down to the business of working on our 3 big design challenges

p.s. Check out this video of the water rocket team, which started field testing right away.