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Author Archives: Angelo Fernando

About Angelo Fernando

Author, business journalist, elementary school teacher, podcaster. I have been blogging since 2004, and a business and technology columnist for magazines, since 1994. Passionate about education, and media literacy.

The Real Moonshot – getting back to the Moon, soon!

While we have been obsessed with Mars, a big project has been underway to revisit the Moon. This little guy below, a Rover being tested by TeamIndus (India), is small compared to some of the Mars Rovers. It weighs just sixteen and a half pounds.

Google created an XPrize challenge, known as Lunar XPRIZE, with a $20 million prize for the team that could do three things:

  • Successfully land on the Moon,
  • Travel 500 meter
  • Transmit images back to Earth.

Five teams are in the running: Israel, US, Japan, India and International team.

Google is known for it’s ‘Moonshots’ –from balloons that could beam down the Internet to remote parts of the world, to autonomous cars, to cancer research. And of course robots.

And it’s being sponsored if you will, by Google.

 
 

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Robotics Olympics highlights. Team Sri Lanka returns

Washington DC’s humidity hovered around 90 percent when the competition began on 16 July. Team Sri Lanka’s four students were sweating bullets for different reasons. In a crowded basement, parked between Senegal and Sudan their 20-wheel steel robot needed some repair work.

The bot that they built in secret in a classroom in Colombo (they called it ‘Area 52’) arrived with a warped axle and damaged omni-wheels. Two hours before departure the airline forced them to repack the 23-kilo microwave-sized contraption into two boxes. The next day the motor failed –not an uncommon problem among teams here.

But they did take on the world! In this competition, designed by FIRST Global like the Olympics, each team worked in ‘alliances’ – groups of three country teams. It was fascinating to watch each team, battling cultural and language barriers (and jet lag and sleep) work through the constraints and perform. My family and I were so proud to be there supporting them.

They did quite well in strategy and design of the bot. In terms of rankings they were placed 138th out of 163 teams – beating the US, France, and Russia. When you consider they had just 9 weeks to prepare for this (many teams had at least 12 weeks), it was quite a feat.

Kudos to coach Dilum Rathnasinghe who took on such an unthinkable task. The team comprised: Ali Anver, Ishini Gammanpila, Vinidu Jayasekera and Akash Gnanam

Here are some images from the 163-team, 157-nation Robotics Olympics.  Read previous post here.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, Robotics

 

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Opening Ceremony of Robotics event in DC

Modeled on the Olympics, FIRST Global’s inaugural international robotics event began on July 16th.

This was the opening ceremony.

 
 

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Two weeks to Robotics Olympics! Team Sri Lanka gears up

Yesterday I spoke to Sri Lanka’s four-member team making the final tweaks to their robot, with hundreds of moving parts including 8 motors, 4 sensors, 4 servos, and some pretty fancy wheels. (This was them, 2 weeks ago.)

These are A-Level students, with the grit and passion you’d expect from college kids. They’ve mastered the programming software Blockly. They tell me they redo some parts of the design, just to be sure. In two weeks, they pack it all up and head to DC.

Today I also spoke to Joe Sestak, president of FIRST Global, and he told me how impressed he was by this team which is so committed, despite getting the robot kit a few weeks later than most other country teams.

I wish them the best!

 

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2017 in Robotics, Sri Lanka, STEM

 

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If only schools can be like this!

I just interviewed Kris Canekeratne, CEO of Virtusa, a 20,000-strong global business consulting and IT outsourcing company headquartered in Massachusetts. Among the many strands we talked about, I was fascinated by his take on learning, and how schools ought to be the ‘ignition’ for curiosity.

“Students have an innate proclivity to curiosity,” he says – no different how engineers are inherently curious, with problem-solving and design thinking as part of their skill set. If only we could design schools to be the spark plugs of knowledge! It’s time we began exposing students to Big Data, Nanotech, AI, user experience, and gamification, he says, instead of teaching them how to memorize material just to pass exams.

To this end, here’s an example of design-thinking class at a Charter School in Berkeley, California.

 
 

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Itchy fingers, clumsy tweets

Donald Trump’s (ab)use of his Twitter account will one day be looked at by historians in about the same way archeologists scrutinize cave paintings.

Back in April, when I was working on my June column for LMD, I had this sense that Trump’s clumsy (but some would say strategic) tweets would be worth focusing on.  Besides the political and international furor swiring about them, there are lessons in them tweets for anyone using social media.

And that was even before he bestowed upon us covfefe.

 

 

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Robotics update: Team Sri Lanka’s progress

Back in March, I wrote a post here about a call to schools in Sri Lanka that might be interested in participating in the first ever Robotics Olympics.

The Team has been busy working on the challenge, which involves designing and programing a robot that could solve a water problem. They comprise: Ali Anver, Akash Gnanam, Amjad Hamz, Vinidu Jayasingh, Ishini Gammanpilla

The event: An international gathering of 160 countries, hosted by FIRST Global
The Goal:  To ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among the more than two billion youths across the world.
Dates: 14 – 18 July, 2017
The Challenge: The teams will work in ‘alliances’ as in the real world, using the robot to solve a global water crisis, specifically called ‘H2O Flow’. Which in and of itself is fascinating because unlike other tournaments, success is not based on individual skills alone. They must work as an international community. This is, after all, the Robotics Olympics!
 

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