Sri Lankan students shine at Intel Science and Engineering Fair


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!

Abishek Gomes


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!



Besides a pencil sharpener and white board, the new must-have: 3D Printer

File this under ‘Disruptive’

It’s stunning to see how far we have come with 3D printing.

I don’t know about you, but when the little things break down –the arm of your reading glasses for instance — I wish I had something more than super glue to fix it.

I’m looking forward to a time when we will get back to being fixer-uppers, and print the part that was nicked off our desk, or died right in front of our eyes.

What’s even more disruptive is how Public Libraries are getting into this arena, with the maker-space phenomenon taking root in cities.


“Are We Talking Too Much?” – Theme of Tempe launch of book

Thank you everyone who attended the second launch event for my book, Chat Republic.

The topics around the book are many, but we seemed to center on the big question as to whether social media has made us too…chatty. How real are the conversations we have, when few appear to be paying attention?

Thank you to may eminent panel who weighed in on the topic.

  • Gary Campbell, editor of ASU’s web site
  • Prabha Kumarakulasinghe – Microchip
  • Don Wilde – Intel

.Some of the topics that came up: 

  • Gold bar espresso, Tempe - Chat RepublicFace Time, Real Time. What is happening to face-time, with people busily checking their phones for possible interactions with the ‘other’? (If you haven’t seen “I forgot my phone, watch this: a statement of our times.)
  • Do we really need smart phones? Or wouldn’t ‘dumb-‘ (um, feature-) phones be adequate most of the time?
  • Transparency Vs Over-sharing. Is our ability to know so much a blessing? Yes, we want to know minutiae about public officials, but many are pulling back because of surveillance. Gary cited the example of how smart phones could help people do dumb/smart things, as in the case of the NFL Player, Brian Holloway, who tracked down the kids who trashed his home. (This story is still being played out, by the way)
  • Smart devices in the class. I enjoyed this one, for obvious reasons. There were several teachers (one principal) in the room, who face this challenge: Are mobile devices in students’ pockets going to help or hurt them?

A big thank you to Dennis and Karen Miller, owners of Gold Bar Espresso, for letting me use their wonderful coffeehouse for this event. These are the spaces –-the Kaffeehaus culture –where deep conversations have taken place for centuries!