Italian Embassy in collaboration with AOD – Inter school Da Vinci Design Competition Announces Winners

From left to right : Founder & Chairperson, AOD, Dr. (Hon DCL) Linda Speldewinde, Ambassador of Italy, H. E. Rita Giuliana Mannella along with the winners of the Inter-school Da Vinci design competition

In the celebrating the yearlong 500-year anniversary of one of Italian’s greatest artist, designer and visionary Leonardo Da Vinci, AOD and the Italian Embassy (SL) partnered in a search to find the next Da Vinci in Sri Lanka with a creative call out. We were looking for the next generation of creative thinkers, innovators, artist, designers and inventors. It’s such an important milestone to recognize one of the world’s greatest inventors, painters and visionary was actually a true creative.

Participation came from many schools and 20 winners were selected with one overall winner. The project was for Students to imagine a future Sri Lanka in the year 2120 and then create a product or service that will be required at the time. Student will need to put their sketching and imagination to the test!

"1st Overall winner Thimanya Ellepola receiving her award from the Ambassador of Italy, H. E. Rita Giuliana Mannella"


When you look for windows that frame a vista of the future, you oftentimes find them gazing through the eyes of visionaries. Through pupils that see not the present, but rather, possibility. Where planets are simply a canvas through which to express the eddies of thought that can’t stay cooped up forever. And it is what visionaries ultimately create, that allows the world to vicariously experience that temporally emancipated flow of thinking. Over the years, faces and bodies may have changed, but the idea and the mind-set of the visionary lives on proudly in the 21st century, and will continue on for as long as human ingenuity is relevant. Thus, AOD brought forth the ‘Da Vinci Competition’, in partnership with the Italian embassy. It’s a celebration of thought, creativity, and foresight, on the backdrop of the 500th anniversary of the Italian mastermind the competition was named after, but most importantly represents what he stands for: creativity. And standing at the eve of the event, having assessed the fruits of labour submitted by Colombo’s visionaries of tomorrow, it’s affirmed with heart-warming clarity that there is no shortage of dreamers out there, whose eccentricity and spirit will light the way for a bright, alacritous future. 

“Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams, than the imagination when awake?”- Leonardo Da Vinci

Competition Task

The premise of the competition was simple: first visualize a comprehensive image of Sri Lanka in the year 2021, and illustrate in about 200-300 words. Second, invent something for it! Following in the footsteps of our titular pioneer, Conceptualize and work on a design and background of some eccentric, truly fantastic creation, born from your passion for future-shaping; and detail its importance in solving any one key problem in your estimation of the future. From tools, tech, apps, clothing, literature, systems, vehicles, even robots…. The playground of creation is truly limited only by your imagination, and your ability to express it. All it took was an A3 paper sketch, a small description, and a name.  The competition was opened to all O-Level and A-Level students in the country, and submission deadlines capped off on the 8th of July 2020, with the awards ceremony that took place on the 9th of September. The ceremony was honoured by the presence of Italian Ambassador Rita Giuliana Mannella, who presented the awards, including the prize for 1st place, that being scholarship at AOD, Following the ceremony Rita spoke a few words:

"This is the kind of initiative that should be taken to encourage young students to develop their minds to be open for the future and to be creative"

All of the works presented were officially showcased by AOD, with a special invitation extended to parents and the students that took part in the competition, to view the final exhibition of top submissions that they were a part of.

Whilst being a fun way to festively honour the joy of innovation, and serve as a platform for many to showcase some of the pet projects that were forced to the backburner by the rising tide of deadlines and assignments, the soul of the competition’s intent possesses another layer to it. Standard educational curriculum teaches us as a society, to think in the present tense. It’s a reductionist outlook that focuses our intent on a haphazard rat-race for individualistic merit and success. You’re taught to go to school, study, study harder, and then once the time arrives, begin to choose what subjects you want to continue to study, and what you will not anymore. This allegedly leaves you at a crossroads.

Your first choice in the education system where you’re meant to fortify what kind of bubble of knowledge you want to immerse yourself in, and then pretty much never leave. Will you choose the technicality of a science stream? Or the data crunching of a business stream? Naturally, as individuals transition out of school their streams may switch, but it still highlights the encouragement of binary choices when it comes to learning. The idea that you choose one field of knowledge, master it, get good at it, get a job in it, earn your money and that’s your key to figuring out life. But what this myopic pinhole completely misses is the fact that you only have one life…and you’ll never be able to live its full potential by splitting it into paths and branches and crossroads…so why break it up? Why have a crossroads when you can learn everything, and by doing so learning to be not a better professional, but a better human? Because life is a one ticket only, all-access experience. The world is at your fingertips only once, so why not try and make as much of it as possible? And by adopting this holistic approach you henceforth adopt perspective, empathy, awareness, context, and more importantly, you start to absorb the world in a way unbound by time. You start to see that it is not about the survival of one in today, but the excelling of all in tomorrow. By learning to embrace all paths in life, even if it’s just for the sake of experience and knowledge, you start to stop looking at the ground, and rather up at the sky. And that’s what keeps humanity moving forward. Much like Da Vinci, who himself had his fingers in all pots, of science, math, art, and more. He opened himself to more. Therefore he saw more. Therefore he made more.

So every once in a while it stands to reason that people can be reminded of that, with a competition that challenges binary thinking, pushes one to think macroscopically, to take a step back for a second and look at the bigger picture. To think about the world as a whole, and not one side of the sum of its parts. And then get crazy with the ideas. Use the tricks and skills that the school curriculum doesn’t teach. Push that out-of-the-box thinking to its limits. Sharpen the creative arsenals of students and creatives out there,  because, in the words of our man of the hour, ‘iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation…even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind’. And as an institution of creative thinkers, it’s only natural that it’s AOD’s duty to the public, and the country’s fresh youth, to foster creativity and cultivate that future-first mindset. The same goes for the Italian embassy, with the country’s rich cultural background of art, science, innovation, and open thinking playing a large force upon the waves of history worldwide, carrying forward into its buzzing creative economy today. It’s In the mutual interest of both parties to watch the minds of the future grow, and also get an idea of what tomorrow’s visionaries are going to look like.

The world needs more dreamers out there. More incredulous, outlandish creations that may one day change the world. Golden ideas by those with their heads firmly situated a good number of years in the future that make the impossible, possible. Because there’s no shortage of problems to fix. And there’s no one way to fix them. But when a network of hundreds of visionaries begin to put their minds together, step out of the rat-race of the present, and into the marathon that is building the future…those problems start to become a lot less daunting.

About Italian Embassy:

The Embassy of the Republic of Italy to Sri Lanka is the representation of the Italian Government in this Country, and our two Countries have enjoyed longstanding bilateral ties, built on solid foundations of solidarity, understanding and mutual sympathy.

About AOD:

Academy of Design (AOD) is Sri Lanka’s most future-ready design dynamic. With a partnership with one of UK’s finest design unis; Northumbria University UK, a faculty of designers from across the globe and the kind of place that can inspire your best creativity, AOD has everything it takes to get you ready for tomorrow for the best design careers out there.

With design degrees in Fashion, Interior Design, Fashion Marketing, Motion Graphics & Animation and Visual Communication Design from the Northumbria University, School of Design – UK, AOD is your ticket to a great creative career.