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Category Archives: Sri Lanka

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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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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My ‘Maker’ nephews’ hydraulic-powered bot built from scrap

This morning my nephews, Nikhil and Shenal, surprised me with a a video of a robotic device they built from scratch.

You’ve probably seen STEM projects that involve making bots or mechanical arms using batteries and sensors. This whatchamacallit does not require electronics. Just cardboard, pins, and syringes.

As a teacher, there are three things I love about this project:

  1. They don’t read off a script!
  2. The commentary is a conversation, building drama (including a mini count down) as the brothers wrestle with the device
  3. Simple explanation of the scientific principles – about levers, the ‘power’, and traction

I like how the claw seems to have a life of its own – good choice of camera angle!

This is what the Maker Space movement encourages, to build, test, fail, redesign, and demonstrate. Their ‘lab’ is their kitchen table!

 
 

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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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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.

Halpe_car

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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Sri Lankan students shine at Intel Science and Engineering Fair

Lochana1

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!
Abishek1

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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Creating an eBook from a PDF – Cool tool!

I am testing a book creation tool called YouBlisher. The goal is to learn how it works so I could teach my students next year how to ‘publish’ in more ways than one! Test it out and let me know what you think.

Click on the icon to view a digital book that lets you flip pages. Then read below the pros and cons:

eBook Experiment - YouBlisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s good about Youblisher:

  1. It’s free, so I don’t have to download any software.
  2. The content has to be created on a local computer, and not on the provider’s website.
  3. You need to convert your document into a PDF to upload it. Which means you create your book as a Microsoft Word doc, or Publisher. Alternatively, you could create a photo book using Photoshop or Powerpoint. As long as you save it as a PDF.
  4. The pages flip like a professional ebook.
  5. YouBlisher gives you a link to embed (which is not what I did here – I just linked an image of the cover, back to the site.) They also give you a Facebook embed code.

What I wish was possible:

  • A way to download the entire ebook, and save it on any device
  • A custom URL would be terrific! Right now it’s www.youblisher.com/p/1391665-Full-STEAM-Ahead. But hey!
  • I wish the links within the content worked. There may be a way to fix this…

Note: The content for this eBook was culled from several posts on this blog. It took me just 20 minutes.

 

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