Facebook employee resignation reveals dark practices

Take a look at this disturbing resignation letter from employee, Timothy Aveni.

He says that “Mark always told us that he would draw the line at speech that calls for violence. He showed us on Friday that this was a lie” and that he finds “Facebook complicit in the propagation of weaponized hatred, is on the wrong side of history.”

He says he’s scared for the US because, “social media-fueled division that has gotten people killed in the Philippines, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.” 

A few days back I asked my friends (and posted here) if they could justify using this corrupt social network. But don’t take my word – pay attention to this FB employee!

Easter Sadness, Sri Lanka. Our faith will rise again.

It’s Easter. Which started out on a wrong note –a hope of the resurrection clouded by sadness. If there is any consolation for us who grieve, it is knowing that many Christians who had watched the gentle sparks kindle an Easter flame saw the face of Jesus that morning. Confronting the message of the empty tomb this week are the mass graves with tiny caskets. Children, mummys and daddys, uncles, aunts and grandparents gone too soon. The images are too raw to process. The cruelty too grotesque.

At this moment, we must weep together, forgive together, and spiritually hold up each other. How else to confront the unspeakable actions of a few? Our collective pain from a scab that healed ten years ago has resurfaced. For now, we grieve. Later –weeks, months? –we will untwist those hateful ideologies, and move past our suspicions. We must trust again. 

We come from an island in which hospitality, inter-faith harmony, and inner joy are a default lifestyle. But this week we cannot hide our tears. After the crucifixion came resurrection. I know our faith, and those departed souls, will rise again.

‘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!

Robotics Team to represent Sri Lanka in Mexico

If you’ve been following my robotics coverage here, I am happy to report on this year’s Team Sri Lanka, who will represent the country at the second Robotics Olympics. The event will be in August, in Mexico City.

I met with the team coaches in Colombo in mid June to find out how they have been progressing. They have been building the robot from the kit they received from First Global, under guidance of a engineer and IT teacher, Shankar. His expertise is in CAD design and he seems excited –though unfazed! — about his students who must build a robust competition-worthy robot.

At the time of writing they are working on a lift mechanism –a so-called ‘cantilever lift’ mechanism — that will allow the bot to move objects to the area that earns them maximum points.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what last years Robotics Team looked like.

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.

Reading, stagnant. But book fairs are on the rise!

Reading among students in the US has been stagnant for the past 20 years – according to a recent NAEP study. An expert quoted in the article (how reading is good for the brain) says schools are too focused on reading for comprehension, while not focusing enough on vocabulary and background knowledge about what’s being read. See my related post on adult reading that also seems to be in steep decline. Pew Research tracks reading trends. A recent survey of 2,002 adults, ages 18 and older, showed this.

Oddly enough, book sales are doing somewhat better now in the US (according to Publisher’s Weekly). Meanwhile, 12 time zones away in Sri Lanka, huge, week-long Book Fairs like this, and this are on the rise.

A report by Roar Media: https://roar.media/english/

A report by Roar Media: https://roar.media/english/

 

 

Future Inventors – My LMD article on Team Sri lanka

SRI LANKA AT THE ROBOTICS OLYMPICS

BY Angelo Fernando

 

A short walk from the White House, the steps leading up to a neoclassical building where Robin Williams once performed spill over with teenagers in bright yellow and blue T-shirts. Using screwdrivers and wire, they are feverishly fixing their robots. It’s only 15 minutes before Round 1 of the two-day competition held in July – a global event drawing 163 teams from 157 countries.

The humidity in Washington D.C. hovers around 90 percent and Team Sri Lanka’s four students are sweating bullets. Huddled in a basement, and parked between Senegal and Sudan, their 20-wheel steel robot needs some repair work.

Why? The bot they had built in a classroom (so secretive was the project, they called the room ‘Area 52’) arrived with a warped axle and damaged omni wheels. The motor failed too, which is not an uncommon problem among teams here. In a few minutes, they must have their 23-kilogramme robot working. It is the ‘Olympics,’ after all…

Link to full article here.

Published in the Sept issue of LMD Magazine.

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!

 

If only schools can be like this!

I just interviewed Kris Canekeratne, CEO of Virtusa, a 20,000-strong global business consulting and IT outsourcing company headquartered in Massachusetts. Among the many strands we talked about, I was fascinated by his take on learning, and how schools ought to be the ‘ignition’ for curiosity.

“Students have an innate proclivity to curiosity,” he says – no different how engineers are inherently curious, with problem-solving and design thinking as part of their skill set. If only we could design schools to be the spark plugs of knowledge! It’s time we began exposing students to Big Data, Nanotech, AI, user experience, and gamification, he says, instead of teaching them how to memorize material just to pass exams.

To this end, here’s an example of design-thinking class at a Charter School in Berkeley, California.

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!