Ariya, As one of the very first Youth Fellows from Thailand, why did you choose to engage in the LearningPlanet Youth Fellow?

After visiting various schools in Thailand to engage in educational activities from marginalised communities and discussing with peers from other South East Asian countries, I realised that classroom teachings are based on rote learning, a memorisation technique based on repetition. For instance, the teachers outline solutions to a problem in bullet points, which students must copy down “at least 10 times” to move on to the next question. This approach to learning, repeated throughout an entire academic career, deprives students of critical thinking space and fosters boredom. We are unconsciously driving a deceiving complication: students produce stellar academic grades, yet are deprived of the purpose and ambition to learn.

In many schools, especially in developing countries like Thailand, students are constantly driven to perform on their exams — whether it be due to family pressures or friendly competition within schools — for the sole purpose of university admissions. I fear that these continual performances in academics, however, do not reflect what we care about and our diverse perspectives as unique individuals in this world.

As a Thai youth, I have also experienced the same lack of purpose. But realising these constraining ideals when I first engaged in a volunteering program as a mentor, I refuse to be trapped in this mindset, and I want to inspire others to reciprocate my actions. In our schools, I believe that we are equipped with the knowledge and skills to make a tangible difference in local communities, but we are the ones who must unlock that potential ourselves. 

This is precisely why becoming a LearningPlanet Youth Fellow interested me. I crave to be exposed to other proactive students who have created tangible change, not only to learn from their experiences of creating social impact but also to share my own insights that might help them. Joining the Youth Empowerment Action Group for the first time, I was exposed to the passion the community has for their community and beyond. 

I feel excited to work alongside these enthusiastic leaders of tomorrow, and share our unending push towards a positive change — albeit big or small. 

Why is the Youth Empowerment Action Group meaningful to you?

In all of my social projects, I have predominantly collaborated with the local community and the students across the schools in my nation. Becoming a Youth Fellow and engaging in its monthly circle session, on the other hand, is a massive opportunity for me to form meaningful bonds with other youth from other nations who share the same vision as me. 

I was given the opportunity to collaborate with enthusiastic and passionate youth from various countries around the world to expand on our projects and create a global impact. These sessions leave me with countless positive memories. The youth share their personal experiences and what “trigger” brought them to their social projects, and give advice to guide my projects towards greater positive outcomes. For example, I was impressed by younger youth than me who have taken their own initiative to recycle sportswear into higher value-added products during an ice-breaker session. 

Despite the geographic distance between me and other youth from all walks of life, I deeply feel a sense of belonging, inclusivity and compassion this community embraces. With all the undeterred passion and drive to create a difference in this world, I was left with no doubt that the future generations of changemakers are among us, the LearningPlanet Youth Fellows.

Can you briefly explain the motivation behind your project “GoBabyGo” and how you’ve expounded on their social impacts?

Rote learning is a problem at Thailand’s education system’s core. And without a “nudge” or inspiration from other people, students find it challenging to explore their own interests. Ultimately, they are left deprived of motivation and a goal to work towards. 

My project, GoBabyGo, is an organisation where students apply the knowledge of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to modify off-the-shelf toy cars that will be customised for children who have mobility disabilities. The main objective of our organisation is to modify ride-on toy cars for children who have mobility issues to feel a sense of movement and the free will to move around. All cars have been modified to fit each child’s unique needs for maximum comfort and mobility. 

But doing these within my school is a challenge because the cars take a long time to be assembled and the circuits to be modified. My team started by expanding our projects domestically, connecting with other schools through social media and cold emails to school departments. Despite the lack of participation and consistent communication, we’ve promoted this initiative and have encouraged youth from other schools to take action.

Gradually, with an increasing number of school visits and car donations that materialised into observable impact, students began contacting us for inspiration and to learn from our framework. Because of this, we started to organise monthly meetings to update and set goals for other chapters to follow. Presently, GoBabyGo serves as the connecting platform for all other chapters in other schools, such as Ruamrudee International School (RIS), International Community School (ICS), Shrewsbury International School (SHB), Bangkok Patana School (BPS), and NIST International School.

During our first event at the Camillian Home Foundation in Ladkrabang, Thailand, building electric cars has instilled a devotion to hands-on assemblies in numerous students in their foundations. Not only has this experience provided an outlet for youth to turn theory into practice, but it has also shaped students to become more proactive in their studies. One evening, I had a phone call from the foundation. The staff there was truly impressed with the students starting to question the content within their classroom and link back to their car-building experience. 

My perspectives have also changed. Prior to GoBabyGo, I had never had the chance to observe how STEM impacts people beyond the lab. Then I saw a disabled child drive the GoBabyGo car for the first time. His name was Pawin, and when he pressed the accelerator, his face lit up with joy, his self-esteem and confidence skyrocketed, and I saw firsthand how engineering can profoundly change someone’s life.  

Currently, my organisation has been initiated in 6 international countries (China, Qatar, Sierra Leone, Canada, India, and the US) with the help of enthusiastic LearningPlanet Youth Fellows. I’m thankful to be surrounded by such a supportive community that drives GoBabyGo towards a greater, global impact. 

How are you going to support and connect with other Youth Fellows in the future?

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

This simple quote from Helen Keller embodies what I feel is deeply embedded within the LearningPlanet community. From group chats that constantly ring of boundless opportunities to circle sessions, the Learning Planet Institute opens up a large channel for each member of our community to engage with each other. And I aim to capitalise on these opportunities whenever possible. 

Through the action group, my goal is to keep in contact with every person I’ve interacted with. If there are any opportunities that I can offer them, or vice versa, we notify each other to combine our thoughts to produce a unique solution. If there are any initiatives of other Youth Fellows sent into the community chat, I constantly request to become a part of them to enhance their global impact and contribute to fostering a vibrant discussion.

Furthermore, I am more than eager to participate in the IKIGAI programme, creating a platform to inspire other students to apply their experiences of social justice towards providing quality education that breaks from the matrix of rote education. In this program, I aim to amplify the impacts of GoBabyGo in collaboration with other fellows or even other organisations. Together, we can strive for greater differences in education throughout the world, and foster tight-knit communities for the LearningPlanet community.

As an inexperienced youth, I can only start small. But with the devotion of others from the LearningPlanet community, I’m confident that we are going to become a significant push for other youth, like us, to find their own voice outside of repetition within classrooms, and apply their insights for the betterment of society. 

Meet Ariya Taechamahaphan

Ariya is extremely driven to explore his fields of interest including material sciences, music, cultural preservation, and sustainability. He aspires to start his own tech company in the future which works on sustainable energy storage systems.

Ariya has dedicated a lot of time to protecting his culture; he has organised several music festivals on Thai music at school and at performing arts centres where he can share his passion for Thai music with other people, with recognition from the Thai Ministry of Culture. He has also created the startup company HeartKnit which produces handmade Hmong-knit bags from local produce — funded from Thailand’s Equity Education. 

Additionally, he spends time working on STEM initiatives with his friends such as the “GoBabyGo” project which requires collaboration between students to build electric toy cars for donation to underprivileged communities around Thailand. He further plans to rebrand GoBabyGo into an organisation that will also hold local STEM workshops for students, organise fundraising events, and allow people in school communities a chance to educate others and feel the consequent positive benefits of these actions.

Ariya has reached out to professors at universities around Thailand for a learning opportunity that has allowed him to step outside of his comfort zone and turn theory into practice — recently contributing to the research on activated biochar’s applications on supercapacitors.

Furthermore, Ariya loves meeting new people. On weekdays he spends a lot of time organising house events at school and performing in music bands to connect people across year groups and create a vibrant community for fellow students to enjoy. Outside of school, Ariya is a competitive go-kart racer; he has competed against multiple GT3 Thai race car drivers. 

Looking ahead, Ariya aims to pursue an interdisciplinary approach to achieve his mission of being a thought and action leader in the area of clean storage. At university, he aims to study material sciences to acquire the necessary knowledge in the relevant areas, while seeking internships at frontier battery companies (e.g. Luminous, Farasis Energy, Panasonic, etc.) to gain work experience. In parallel, he would like to dedicate time to research and development as well as finding teammates to create a business plan for his own clean tech startup. Ariya would like to pitch the startup idea for grants to carry out market research, start producing prototypes and change the future of energy after graduation.