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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.

Farewell to a legend – Prof. Ashley Halpe

“And one man in his time plays many parts…”

Professor Ashley Halpe, who passed away on 14th May was more than a teacher to me. He was a role model,  a constant inspiration, a consummate artist, and a friend.

His inspiration was contagious – it made no difference whether it was in the hallways of the arts faculty in Peradeniya, or the living room of his home. His humor was a constant, as was his ability to remain unruffled by the latest flavor-of-the-month student strike or political upheaval. As for the latter, Ashley Halpe lived through many, from the insurgency of 1971, to the ethnic unrest on the campus pre-July ’83. It might be fitting to say that he looked at these events with a poet’s eye, not as a keen observer, seeing himself as part of the solution.

As Professor Walter Perera, commented, “No other lecturer in our time was able to bring poetry and drama alive as he did. But his strengths were not limited to the classroom.”

If I may expand on that, I would say his influence was not limited to books on his shelf or his classroom. True story. One day a few of us who showed up for class were asked to leave our books behind in class and get into his blue station-wagon, which he drove to Peradeniya Gardens. This was not a field trip, but a ‘seminar’ under the sprawling BanyaHalpe1n trees in the 147-acre botanical gardens. To Professor Halpe, the classroom could be anywhere! “All the world’s a stage; And all the men and women merely players.”

I was fortunate to visit prof. Halpe in Kandy in July last year. We talked of many things –about writing, and teaching, poetry and publishing. But I am not sure if I thanked him enough for his sphere of influence that reached out and touched us, no matter how far we have moved.

Farewell dear Prof. and fellow Peterite.

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Posted by on May 22, 2016 in Education, Sri Lanka

 

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Solar Chili cook-off continues today at Salt River Elementary

Thanks to Anne Patterson of Solavore, for helping me host the solar oven event in my class yesterday and today. I put together this STEM event for 5th and 6th graders as a final year STEM module.

AnneP1A great way to end the year on a high note – focusing on concepts such as insulation, radiation and the greenhouse effect, and letting students taste the end product! I liked how she compared different feeding habits of living creatures – carnivores, herbivores and ‘solavores‘ – to bring home the point about how we consume energy in one form or another. The sun, however is not a ‘consumable’Top 10 Sunnest Countries in that sense since we have an infinite supply of it.

Anne then compared the Top 10 Sunniest Countries, showing how the US has the most number of sunny days, and Arizona tops the list of States as well, with 4015 hours of sunshine a year!

Which is why, within 20 minutes of placing our ovens outside, they reached 250 degrees. One even topped 300 degrees!


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Thank you to my judges on both days, Annette Williams, Chris McIntire, Erik Haarstad, Joni Andreas and Wayne Sekaquaptewa who braved the chili recipes and the near double-digit heat outside. Today’s judges got to taste some of my Sri Lankan Chili as well.

Finally a big thank you to my colleagues. 6th Grade teachers: Erlinda Allen, Donna Horn, David Crebs, John Emmons. 5th Grade teachers: Maria Enriquez, Bernadette Spencer, Valencia Gorman, and Ashlee Chee for supporting this crazy idea.

 

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Sri Lankan students shine at Intel Science and Engineering Fair

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Lochana Fernando

I volunteered at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix yesterday as a translator for Sri Lanka competing at the international event.There were thousands of students from Azerbaijan to the Ukraine –and 24 from Arizona. There were outstanding inventions and research across the board. These three students’ work were very impressive!

  • 17-year-old Lochana Fernando had breakthrough research on cancer. His board was titled “Anti-proliferative and Apoptotic Effects of Ellagic Acid Functionalized iron Oxide Nanoparticles on Endometrial Cancer Cells.” In plan English it was looking at a way to use nano-technology to fight uterine cancer.
  • 16-year-old Abishek Gomes had a product, a smart glove, that would convert sign language to English. His board was titled “Wearable Device to Translate American Sign Language (ASL) into English.”
  • 14-year-old Chamindu Jayasanka displayed a pair of “Modified Adjustable Crutches” he had invented to help amputees in particular. It is easily adjusted, but the neat part is that it also serves as a foldable seat!
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Abishek Gomes

Chamindu

Chamindu Jayasanka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lochana is from Senanayake National College, Madampe. Abishek is from Belvoir International School, Colombo. Chamindu is from Rajasinhe Central College, Hanwella.

SmartGlovesTo make the pair of smart gloves, Abishek explained how he had to teach himself programming, and learn how to modify a 3-D printer (among other things) in order to give precision to the flexible connectors inside the gloves. This was crucial  to precisely convert finger movements to  the alphabet in real-time.

The stakes are high. Three first place winners are awarded $150,000 each!

 

 

 

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8th Grader (robotics student) composes Opera music

Just saw the story that one of my former students, Sialik King, who also took a lead role in our robotics team, has gone on to compose music.

She was featured on NPR affiliate, KJZZ.

One of the songs, One Day at a Time, sounds like a classic opera song – supposedly reminiscent of Madame Butterfly or The Barber of Seville. The Opera is part of a move to incorporate American Indian stories in ‘micro-operas’ of  8-12 minute duration. Composers Raven Chacon, and Michael Begay were commissioned by Arizona Opera, the Grand Canyon Music Festival, and the Heard Museum for this.

 

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2016 in Education, Robotics

 

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If you support computer science – speak up!

Care to support a push to promote Computer Science in schools?

Most schools don’t have it as a foundational class, so leaders from across the US –which includes the Zuckerbergs, Cooks, Schmitdts and Gates’ of this world — have begun a movement to petition our political leaders.

You could find it here at Change.Org.

The petition was started by Code.org founder Hari Partovi., and is also supported by governors and school districts, not just the private sector. Please give it your consideration.

 
 

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Could humans replace robots? (That’s not a typo)

When we teach students about robotics, it’s important to give them the big picture of why robotics is important. To do that it’s best to steer clear of the cliché that ‘Robotics are replacing people.’

So don’t you love this story that humans are being given back jobs that robots are not good at? Mercedes and Toyota have begun this, which is a surprise considering Toyota set the standard for automation in its factories. Remember ‘Lexus and the Olive Tree‘ in which Thomas Freedman described how cars were being manufactured by industrial robots?

Turns out humans, though easy to lay off, are better at keeping pace with changes and problem-solving.”The variety is too much to take on for the machines,” observed the head of production at Merc. They realize that humans are better at individualization, and dealing with variations. Robots, on the other hand, while they never need a lunch break of a sick day, work appear to be unable “to keep pace with changes.”

The point is not to teach young people to design robots that will replace human input but to manage them, and work alongside them.

If you subscribe to the opposite view, that robots are replacing humans, this story proves your point. It is a robot called Eve, a ‘robotic scientist’ that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of Manchester.

 

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Two networks our children may never know

Networks today mean something intangible. They almost always don’t involve human intervention. But there was a time when networks functioned because of people throwing switches and pulling levers.

I ran into these when visiting the old mining town of Jerome, Arizona yesterday. Take a look at two different networks, and appreciate old tech for a moment.

This model railroad, of the adjoining town of Cottonwood where we stayed in, incorporates the school, saloon, and the ‘company town’ where miners lived.  (If you are old enough to remember Johnny Cash’s song ‘Company Store,’ this is where that sentiment began. As in “St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go; I sold my soul to the company store.”)

Railroad Network

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This other network, telephones, were something else entirely. The switchboard ‘networked’ someone to another, thanks to an operator like this.Telephone Exchange

 

 
 

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