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Category Archives: World Events

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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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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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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It’s settled then: There won’t be an oxymoron in the White House

For all the debate prep, no one could have contained Donald Trump as he hurtled toward the precipice, sliding on the rocks of loose talk. In the end, despite fancy slogans, websites, and stage props, something as basic as good communication skills makes or breaks a leader.

A free, seemingly easy-to-master, tool should be handed to someone of Donald Trump’s personality with a warning: “May cause user to implode.” Just like Twitter, a microphone could also be a dangerous tool. Indeed, many before him have been dispensed into the heap of disgraced leaders and also-rans because of a hot mic, or a video capture, or even a spool of tape.

Another interesting thing about Trump was his penchant for ‘truthful hyperbole’ – a term he used in his book, The Art of the Deal, which, to be fair was ghost-written.

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But as is evident now, truthful hyperbole, a classic oxymoron, is the long fuse that led him to where he is, an outcast of the party he represents.

Citizens vote for leaders who articulate their hopes and needs. Thankfully voting for an oxymoron was not an option.

Footnote worth listening to: Nixon’s tape archive recording where he and his staff discuss ”lying to a base.’

 

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From Abraham Zapruder to Diamond Reynolds – Cameras in public life sensitize us

It’s just three months since Facebook Live became a feature that anyone could use. But it took another accidental ‘reporter’ named Diamond Reynolds to put it to use in a way no one ever envisaged.

This came some 52 years after another accidental reporter named Abraham Zapruder captured sniper bullets hitting President John. F. Kennedy in Dallas.

That was a time when cameras were scarce, and there was no such thing as a live citizen journalist broadcast. Now cameras (and all manner of recording devices) are so ubiquitous, we’ve almost come to expect to see the raw footage or listen to soundtracks of terrible events. Technology has given us a way to piece together events. The hope is that events seen through multiple camera angles might help us NOT rush to judgement.

Facebook Live allows 90 minutes of video. Zapruder took just 26.6 seconds of footage.

 

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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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Big payoff for science students at ISEF

Not only is science fun, it could have a big payoff for students.

Big, as in $150,000!

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (of ISEF), the world’s largest pre-university science competition, really rewards budding scientists,engineers and inventors.. This year three students won the top $150,000 prize each. Second place winners won $75,000 each.

This year’s ISEF Fair will be held here in Phoenix from May 8 – 11th. I plan to be there. Interestingly, three Sri Lankan students will be participating in it.

Founded 75 years ago, the fair attracts some 1,700 high school students from over 75 countries, regions, and territories who showcase their research and compete for approximately $4 million in prizes.

One of the winners (left), 17-year old Paige Brown, found a way to filter pollutants in stream water, and has nano-technology in her sights to expand on the device.

This kind of scientific problem-solving is extremely relevant here in the US, where several cities are discovering high levels of lead in drinking water, after the Flint, Michigan disaster. As the New York Times states in its report, “Rules and science are outdated.”

The future generation of scientists and policy makers like Paige will be updating the science. Other students are ‘discovering’ new ways for disease management and medical breakthroughs.

All this while still in school!

 

 

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