GIANT Spotlight: Meet Azi!


Name: Azadeh (Azi) Jamalian, PhD

Title: Founder and CEO at The GIANT Room

Tell us a bit about yourself… Hi! I’m Azi - well my full name is Azadeh which means a free person, but we can go with Azi, shorter and easier. I’m a GIANT dreamer, and founder of The GIANT Room

My background is in Systems Engineering, but then I got very interested in education and more specifically in the integration of Technology and Learning. That’s why I ended up with a PhD in Cognitive Science in Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. I then co-founded Tiggly, an early learning company that pioneered the integration of physical play with digital applications, to provide a rich and interactive learning experience for children. Next, I joined littleBits as their head of education strategy. Millions of children got to love learning math and writing their first words with Tiggly. Millions more are inventing the world they want to live in with littleBits.

I’m a TED speaker, former TED resident, have published journal articles and book chapters on a broad range of topics such as designing learning platforms for children, emerging educational tech, game design, mathematical education, and cognition. I’m honored to have received numerous awards including “IES Prize for Excellence in Research on Cognition and Student Learning” and “The Cooney Center’s certificate of innovation in Children’s Learning”.

Today, I’m the CEO at The GIANT Room, giving every child the opportunity and community support they need to act on their most ambitious dreams.

My most memorable moment at The GIANT Room is… The most memorable moments I’ve seen from our GIANT Kids: (1) A 10 year old boy pulling apart his shoes to examine how they’re constructed in an attempt to come up with a system that automatically ties his shoelaces - why? Because loose shoelaces have caused serious pain in his flat feet. (2) A 5 year old who made a birthday cake from cardboards, and then recorded her voice singing “Happy Birthday Everybody” and used Makey Makey to add her voice to the cake - the result? Whenever someone touches her cake, it signs the happy birthday song back to them! (3) Many kids offering to “volunteer” at GIANT Room, and we even had one of our GIANT kids requesting to wear GIANT staff apron and help out! Of course we gave her one of our aprons and she was very serious in being a GIANT staff. Oh I have so many other examples. One day, I’ll write a book and dedicate each paragraph to a GIANT kid!

My favorite item to use in GIANT projects is… I think what makes every GIANT project, GIANT, is kids’ ideas and imagination. So I always start there - asking them what they think we should make, build, work on. They always surprise me in the most wonderful way. I also love when I see kids mess around with tech - when they build and tinker with LEDs, motors, microboards, and robotic parts in their projects with the same attitude they use markers and papers - just tools in service of their ideas!

My favorite thing to do in New York is… Walking around the city, finding interesting art exhibitions and interactive installations, and watching how kids engage with the “grown up” world!

Would you rather be a tiny elephant or a giant hamster? Is a GIANT elephant an option? I want to be that! If not, I’ll go with tiny elephant because the idea of an elephant is giant in itself

Something I can spend hours doing and never get bored is…Playing with kids, watching them laugh and enjoy making a mess!

Describe your commute this morning in 3 words…Oh! I had an exceptional commute this morning. Pleasant, short, and happy!

If you could learn anything, what would it be? Everything? Lol - no but seriously, I have a deal with myself that I should learn something new every day. But if I have to choose one thing - I would choose a new language! I wish I could speak Mandarin or Spanish… Maybe one day I’ll get to it.

Something I’m looking forward to is…Going to work at The GIANT Room every day - that’s a genuine answer.