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Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

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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Sri Lankan Workshop YouTube Channel

To support the recent science and tech workshop, our YouTube channel is up and running.

  • This is one of them, on Augmented Reality – featuring Google Cardboard

 

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Farewell LMD readers – I’m retiring after 20 years

Dec. 2015 was my last column in LMD Magazine. After 20 some years, I’ve decided to put down the pen and become a consumer, rather than a contributor. (And yes, it’s always been a pen!)

I began writing for the magazine back in 1994, as an ‘occasional’ contributor. By 1995, publisher Hiran Hewavisenti cajoled me to start a column after we returned to the US, and …the rest is history.

I admit, ‘retiring’ as a columnist was a tough decision, considering how much it connected me with many of you readers in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. It’s funny how ‘old tech’ print publications like this have been the precursors of our fancy schmancy social networks. It’s how I’ve met tech evangelists, entrepreneurs, and a wide range of thought leaders in emerging sectors. You’ve helped me cover topics such as US political campaigns, and advertising to diplomacy, from the tsunami to the ‘Uber economy’, from mobile learning, and cyber wars to artificial intelligence.

I like to thank the staff at LMD for their wonderful support, and my fellow columnists who sometimes became my sounding board, as they covered complimentary, emerging topics from different corners of the world. And last but not least, I have to thank my readers, many of whom write back, or send that occasional tweet.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2016 in Journalism, Media, Social Media

 

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Science and Tech Workshop in Sri Lanka

Just got back from a short trip to Sri Lanka, where I conducted two workshops for teachers.The first was in Maharagama on Dec 15th & 16th. The second workshop was in Kandy on Dec 18th.

Here are some stories about the workshops:

Much thanks to my co-presenters:

  • Dr. Paul Funk – Engineer, US Dept. of Agriculture, New Mexico (Via Skype)
  • Ruben Gameros – Autonomous Collective Systems Laboratory, Arizona State University (Via Skype)
  • Scott Logan – Montessori International School, Mesa, Arizona (Via Skype)
  • Lal Medawattegedera – Lecturer, Open University of Sri Lanka
  • Nalaka Gunewardene – Science writer, author, trustee of the Science and Development Network
  • Nazly Ahmed – Web App Dev at Social Seed Media

Also the two Keynote Speakers:

  • Dr. Ajit Madurapperuma – Dir. Of Information Communication Technology, ICTA
  • Dr. Nalin Samarasinha – Astrophysicist at Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona (Via Skype)

Finally, thanks to the American Center in Sri Lanka who made this possible – especially Joshua Shen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hands-On Engneering – Spaghetti Tower Challenge

 

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Hands-on session on Audio Recording

Scot Logan & Students

Hands-on session on Motors and Electro-magnetism

Scott Logan & students at Montessori International School, teach class – via Skype

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Aaron Fernando facilitates session

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Using audio and video for content creation

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Photography in Science – From SLRs to GoPro

Nazly Ahmed, Social Seed Media explains Depth of Field

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Engineering & Problem Solving – Building a Solar Oven

Paul Funk, US DOA

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Teaching Science Writing

Nalaka Gunewardene

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Future Ready Classroom – Google Cardboard & Augmented Reality

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Future Ready Classroom – Teaching Robotics

Ruben Gameros, ASU, teaches class on robotics – Via Skype

Joshua Shen - STEAM Workshop Introduction

Joshua Shen  Delivers Opening Address

 

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Sri Lankans “consolidate the January 8 revolution” in landmark elections

Pardon for my dredging up the cliché about how “the people have spoken.”

As Sri Lanka sees the results of a peaceful general election today, the real revolution has been in the making for a few years.

We now take for granted that most journalists provide results and news in real-time. Even providing clarity today, amid the euphoria, and contradictory ‘reports’.

We aren’t surprised anymore that the Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs, Harsha de Silva uses his Twitter handle, as if he was texting you personally (and bilingually, too).  He’s not alone in this digital democracy of 20.8 million people.

One of the 5 trends in Sri Lanka, as outlined by Anna Bruce-Lockhart at the World Economic Forumis the gains in digitization. (The Full report is here.)

I welcome the maturity of an informed digital democracy in our Chat Republic.

 

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Attack machines. Two elections, different priorities

It’s two days away from General Elections in Sri Lanka. And 15 months away from the US Presidential Elections. Comparing these could be a study in what has how personalities (and by this we mean character and reputation) and priorities differ.

Oh, and how the media conducts itself.

This week there has been a virtual political firing squad in the US, as presidential contestants attack each other as a way of differentiating themselves from the pack. And there is a pack, as far as Republicans go! Take this classic, if not representative battle between Rand Paul and Donald Trump. Rand calls out Trump for lack of political finesse in these words:

“He is devoid of ideas other than he likes the idea of power and getting attention for foolish statements and bluster.”

This was a comeback to Trump going out of his way to attack Rand, thus:

“You look at a guy like Rand Paul: He’s failing in the polls, he’s weak on the military — he’s pathetic on military…I actually think he’s a far better doctor than he is a senator.” 

Indeed, all this gets into play because there is media to cover every sound bite.

SWITCH TO A DIFFERENT CONTINENT, and attacks are less about personality and more about substance. Character comparisons are about political expedience or the controversy surrounding it past deeds. Amantha Perera just contributed to a balanced analysis about the two contenders, president Maithripala Sirisena, and his ousted predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Though it is a general election, the personality of the party leader is in play. But by comparison, despite digging through the past (a recent exhumation, for instance), there is a certain maturity in the political process that’s quite evident.

As Americans must put up with the tripe as Trump and Paul, or Clinton and Bush duke it out over golf games, business reputation, or emails (!), Sri Lankans must consider how its future party and its leader plays on an geo-political stage, with its allegiance to India and/or China.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2015 in Journalism, Media

 

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