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Category Archives: Sri Lanka

‘Energy Impact’ challenge at First Global Robotics

The biggest international robotics event starts this week in Mexico City, and will run from the 16th to the 18th August. Sri Lanka’s team was featured on the home page of First Global this week.

This year’s theme for 2018 is “Energy Impact. This means the robots must work in collaboration, working in three teams (three random nations are picked for each round) to create environmentally friendly solutions in the contest environment.

The larger purpose is to let students from countries with different world views, understand what it takes to work together as alliances.

When I spoke to the team a few days ago they seemed very confident of the maneuvers and demands for this year’s challenge, involving fuel cubes, power lines, solar arrays, and wind turbines. It’s been months or preparation, though each match is just two and a half minutes long!

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2018 in Robotics, Sri Lanka

 

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Team Lanka at Robotics Olympics in Mexico this week

Last July, our team went to to the kickoff  Robotics tournament in DC.

This year, the team’s expanded to include students from other schools in the country.

  • Students: Cong, Daniel, Felix, Hamza, Lasith, Navod, Sachin, Sherwin, and Syanthan.
  • Coaches: Shankar, Jekhan, Dilum, and Srimali

This is one impressive gathering of 170 nations. It is hosted by the ‘FIRST’ organization, which is the umbrella organization that holds 5 other robotics tournaments around the country, such as FIRST Lego League Jr., FIRST Lego League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics for grades K-4, 4-8, 7 – 9, and 9-12 respectively.

I’ve worked with FIRST for the past 6 years, and met Dean Kamen, the founder, who’s one of the biggest STEM promoters I’ve ever known. He puts his money where his mouth is, a serial entrepreneur and educator who inspires youth across all ages. If you like to know how to get your school involved in robotics, or STEM, let me know.

 

 
 

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S.T.E.M, skyscrapers and suicidal Tuk-tuks

One month isn’t enough in Sri Lanka!

 

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2018 in Education, Sri Lanka

 

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Bandarawela, a hideaway too often misunderstood

Don’t believe Lonely Planet. Don’t look at the once-sleepy up-country tea-trading town of Bandarawela only as a place overtaken by tuk-tuks and buses. That’s just one part of a town that’s outgrown it’s status as a hub for tennis tournaments, a wholesale vegetable trading route, and where some of the finest tea comes home to roost.

The Bandarawela I know is still in tact, if you care to look. The quiet three-mile walk past old churches, convents, and a haunted house. The breathtaking switch back (in these parts we call them ‘hairpin bends’) up to Pilkinton Point. A quick dip in the waterfall on the way to Diyatalawa, and so much more.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2018 in Sri Lanka

 

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Banning hate speech in Sri Lanka poses social media conundrum

The apps stopped working in Sri lanka sometime on March 7th. The blanket decision to curb the hate speech that ensued after the clashes in Kandy was both a blessing and a curse. It’s not the best strategy, but it’s often the only one left when a government is caught unprepared.

Censorship – what else could we call it?- is a curse. “Social media is a noisy and contested space,” observed Nalaka Gunawardene. After all, “many have been using the platform to counter myths, misconceptions and prejudices.” Hate speech lives here alongside the more commendable forms of social interatcion. We have seen this movie before, though. Social media companies are often unable to, or incapable of filtering out the noise. Or the conspiracy theories, or the fake news. So pulling the plug is a hard choice. But it should go with long-term preventive measures that prevent offline hate speech. Which, as has been well documented, the government has not addressed for years. Again it’s worth quoting Nalaka who observes:

We did not reach this point overnight. For many years, ultranationalists have been poisoning the public mind with racial and religious hatred. Some local language newspapers – in both Sinhala and Tamil – regularly use racially-charged language and accommodate extremist viewpoints. Privately owned TV channels, engaged in a fierce competition for ratings, have also sometimes played with fires of communalism. 

His article, a long read, is titled “Smart phones and stupid governments.”

In 1983, the outbusts of hatred and bigotry travelled over long distances with no help from phones, let alone smart phones. There was no platform to block or blame. The culprit? Politicians! People at the top of the totem pole with no crisis plan, no leadership.

 
 

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Google’s drag-and-drop ‘Scratch’ doodle

As Google doodles become more interactive it’s fitting to see it launch Hour of Code with a drag-and-drop doodle. It’s their first Coding-based doodle. Have you tried it? It’s on today’s Google landing page.

Worth reading: A description by MIT’s Champika Fernando, who was on one of the 3 teams that built this doodle.

Hour of Code runs through this week, which is also Computer Science Education week, and the anniversary of 50 years of programming languages. Scratch was developed at MIT.

 
 

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Fighting Technoference? Buy a goldfish

I brought up the word earlier –Technoference. It’s one of those Urban Dictionary words that smacks us in the forehead but eventually creeps into our vocabulary –like ‘Dweeb,’ ‘Fudgel’ and ‘Thunking.’  So I decided to devote my Nov column in LMD magazine to it.

So what’s Technoference, you ask?

Besides having to actually read the damn column, I’m betting you already experienced it. Have you ever had a conversation with a teenager, only to have her pause you in mid-sentence and pull out a phone to fact-check something? Thought so!

Once you get off your Snapstreak, let me know your thoughts on it.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2017 in LMD, Social Media, Sri Lanka, Technology

 

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