Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Olympic-styled Robotics competition coming up in July

Last week I was contacted by ‘FIRST Global‘, an organization launching an Olympic-styled robotics event in Washington, DC, in July 2017. They were keen to see students from Sri Lanka represent their country.

I have been talking to organizations in Sri Lanka about this, and wanted to summarize details of the endeavor.

FIRST Global is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur, Dean Kamen, whose organization holds several robotics competitions for schools across the country. My school participates in it, and I have been the robotics coach since 2012. But this event is different, and stretches its global footprint to reach out to every country on earth, and empower students in engineering and science.

The event: An international competition in Washington, DC
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 Requirement: High-school students (ages 15 – 18) who would build and program a robot from a provided kit (hardware and software)
Team : Could comprise 3 students, plus a coach
What I like most about this event is that it fosters a new international movement among future STEM leaders who will use the ‘competition’ as a springboard for global collaboration not just in robotics but in the emerging fields within science and technology.
The Robot Challenge: The focus this year is on Water. More specifically access to clean water.
For this, the robot table at the competition will be set up with challenges solving the global water crisis.
This could be similar to how the ‘missions’ are set up on the board for the other FLL competitions (2016 was Animal Allies, in 2015 it was Trash Trek etc) in which the robot to accomplish as many missions as possible within two and a half minutes.
For students who might want to contact me, here is one of the videos that explain the hardware that will be available  to design their own bot. If you need more information, please contact me at publicradius at gmail.

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Technology lessons – No books required!

Sometimes you don’t need text books to learn a skill.I don’t usually advise young people to skip university, but I know of many folks who have learned incredible skills, never having stepped into a classroom for the past 20 years. One friend fixes BMWs as a hobby (sometimes has about 10 in his driveway). Another runs a mid-sized marketing communications agency, but has built and operates an eco-resort. The former never went to engineering school. The latter never took a class in architectural design or management.

And my point is, we often hone our skills in our garages, and our basements.These are our ‘labs.’ No one gives us a certificate for these long hours of professional development.

Here’s a related example: Children learning about science and tech on a farm. Think of it as a STEM lab in Nebraska.

Cows. BMWs. Conservation. Plenty of knowledge out there, not found in books and lectures.


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Social Media and innovation surge in Sri Lanka

(This post is being updated)

Today in Colombo the tech and business community attended Social Media Day, a Mashable-coordinated event, worldwide in which 511 cities participated

Two days ago, they held another parallel event known as Refresh Colombo.

One of the organizers noted that the hash-tag #SMDayCMB, which had begun trending regionally (as a ‘tailored trend’) validated the fact that there was a highly engaged community now. Speaking of the community, it’s got the right volatile mix for innovation. One newspaper reported, it was a confluence of “hackers, bloggers, coders, geeks and geek lovers, journalists, techies, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.” Note: the absence of one group here – politicians. In post-war Sri Lanka, steering clear of politics appears to be a well-honed skill.

One of the highlights was a video-link up with Jehan Ratnatunga in California. Jehan is the person behind the comic YouTube skits. Fittingly (for this social media savvy audience) he explained how he landed a job with YouTube because of his hobby.

Watch this presentation by two of the smartest young entrepreneurs who understand not just technology, but how grass-root change and politics works at a fundamental level.

Watch the whole thing (it’s 25 minutes) because the best discussion is toward the end.

More coverage of event


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When you can’t broadcast, why not podcast?

A funny thing happened on the way to the radio station this week.

We had a great guest lined up, but were informed a day before that that time slot –7 PM Arizona time — was being preempted because the station, KFNX, had a prior commitment to carry the University of Arizona basketball game.

Rather than take a hiatus, I decided to pull out my trusty Zoom H4N and record a podcast with my co-host Derrick Mains. It happened to be a fitting week to talk of the launch of a baseline study by his company, GreenNurture and Miller Consultants. (More details here at the show web site.) This podcast also includes a report from Heather Clancy, our second on-the-ground correspondent.

The irony of this is, the radio show grew out of a weekly podcast! So, using social media-based format to broadcast a ‘show’  is more than a fall back. It’s an integral part of what I’m doing in radio in the digital era.


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Quotes for the week ending 3 Oct, 2009

“There’s nothing quite as insecure as a television anchorman.”

Kent Dana, the news anchor for Channel 5 (KPHO) in Phoenix, and previously anchor of Channel 12 (KPHX), retiring after a 30-years work in the news business.

“This is the biggest investment we’ve made in a national launch … “This is not your grandmother’s instant coffee.”

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, on the launch of Via, the instant brew

“rather than submitting their images and videos to mainstream media organisations, they post them online on Facebook, Twitpic, or wherever their friends are likely to see them.”

Robin Hamman, visiting journalism fellow at City University, London, commenting on the social media use during disaster and tragedy.

“This whole things has been quite scary.”

David Letterman, admitting he had had an affair with an employee.

“It is a whole other universe of risk.”

State Rep Steve Farley of Tucson, on texting and driving, as Arizona considers a bill to ban it.

“… Which is another reason why news operations don’t publish all the good news we hear about. There would be no room for the rest.”

E.J. Montini, commenting on All the Good News Fit To Print.

“But you have to remember if you have a conversation on the wall, you could be opening up the entire conversation to the public.”

Robyn Itule, an account manager with Armstrong Troyky, a PR and Ad agency in Phoenix

‘Then out of nowhere this big wave, as tall as the sky, hit.”

A 21-year old woman in the Pacific Island of Samoa, on the devastating tsunami that hit the area, followed by an earthquake in Sumatra.

“There’s always truth in snark.”

Chris Brogan, during his presentation at New Media Atlanta, commenting on the back-channel tool, BackNoise, saying “always confront the thing you are fear most head-on.”


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“Mainstream no more” is tough pill to swallow

As we come to the end of May, two things with huge implications have shown themselves.

THE FIRST was the Wall Street Journal’s faux pas, trying to force a set of rules on their journalists who’ve started adopting social media into their work flow. Just one of the rules, that ‘Business and pleasure should not be mixed on services like Twitter‘ sounds like it was written by someone who woke up yesterday. Or didn’t hear about the ‘95 Theses‘ published ten years ago. Not this one, but in this book!

THE SECOND was the launch of a company called It’s a new media company in Sri Lanka, launched by a former journalist and longtime friend Tyron Devotta. (Full disclosure: I am partly involved in it, at least in sentiment.)

One of their first posts on the blog –that has fittingly preceded the main web site–was called “Mainstream No More.” It’s written by a staffer, a former reporter. She expresses the struggle this switch involves. Today, anyone in the storytelling business has to get under the hood of social media and see what makes it so compelling to the audience. Or as Jay Rosen aptly called them, “the people formerly known as the audience.”


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Take risks, change attitude, rethink your career

Obama4If people though that Obama would trot out the message of Hope, and yes-we-can for an grad audience, they were wrong.

It’s about change, not hope.

“Question conventional wisdom and challenge old dogmas.”

Hard task ahead, not just for people like these 11,000 people entering the work force. I try to put some of this across in my resume-meets-social media seminar, but taking risks is hard, scary at this time. But guess what? I know of two people who are doing just that.

One guy is starting what most people would call crazy –a media company. He happens to be an ex-journalist. The other guy has a great model for mobile marketing, using the phone as a scanning device. I asked the journo, if he has a business plan. He says yes, but it’s not exactly a plan because  he intends to tweak it as he moves ahead. Conventional wisdom tells me this is risky. But that’s exactly what we need in a recession: Unconventional wisdom. He was not forced into a career change. He shifted gears before he was forced to.

As Obama sums up his speech –it’s 8.25 pm Mountain Standard Time– I know that Obama is lighting a fire under an audience beyond this stadium with than formula.


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