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DateLine Sunday, 23 March 2008

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Lankan students' innovations to take centre stage at international competition

Children are our future and they should be given every opportunity to expand their horizons and this is exactly what the Junior Inventor of the Year 2007 organised by the IESL has done to bring out the latent talents of children in our country who think like adults and seek solutions for the problems faced by their elders.

Though we as adults at most times don't understand the feelings of our children, they understand the feelings of the adults and try to ease the burden of the adults and this was again proved by the three children who have been selected by the IESL to represent Sri Lanka and keep the country's flag flying high at the international competition as well as Sri Lanka's representation for the first time at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) to be held in USA in May this year.

Regional Manager, Intel Sri Lanka Indika de Zoysa said that Intel ISEF is the world's largest pre-collegiate science fair and last year's fair drew more than 1,500 young scientists from 51 countries, regions and territories to compete for US$ 4 mln in scholarships and awards. He said that Intel has been the sponsor for the past 11 years.

The Junior Inventor Competition of the IESL held in October and the Science Research project competition of the National Science Foundation held in November will select the ten best projects annually which will then compete at the Sri Lanka Science and Engineering Fair. Of the winners the first two children will participate in the competition while the other will take part as an observer. All expenses of the children will be borne by Intel.

Collapsible staircase

D. Yasith Kanchana Lokuge of Ananda College secured the first place and title award at the Sri Lanka Science and Engineering Fair organised by the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka. The youngest in a family of two he has one sister. " My father is a doctor while my mother is a teacher," he said.

In response to a question as to what gave rise to building a collapsible staircase, he said that during the construction of their house, his father faced numerous difficulties in building a staircase within a limited space.

He referred to many house plans to overcome this problem. But finally he decided to build a conventional staircase as he could not find an alternative solution. This was on my mind and I began to think of developing a method to minimise the space requirements when building staircases and I built it.

Our schools' Young Inventors Society informed me about this competition when I was in Grade 11 and I applied because I wanted to show what I had done.

Large space which is normally required to construct a conventional staircase cannot be utilised for any other purpose.

According to data, a spiral staircase occupies 65-82% of the space normally required for an 'L' shaped staircase.

The objective of this invention is to construct a staircase, utilising the minimum space, leaving the remaining space to be used for any other purpose.

In this design, each stair that constitutes the assembly of the folding staircase is in the shape of a segment whose narrow end is attached to a cylindrical ring which is placed on to a main solid rod, one on top of the other to make it moveable around this rod (axis). Each segment has a mechanism which draws this segment when the staircase is folded or unfolded.

Electronic circuit

A programmed micro-controller governs the movement of the staircase through an electronic circuit.

The power supply of the motor is controlled by a security password and an alarm indicates the folding and unfolding of the staircase.

Power from the electric motor installed under the floor level moves the lowermost segment of the staircase by means of a belt. The movement of the motor clockwise and anticlockwise turns the lowermost segment which draws the others in progress to fold or unfold the staircase.

The contribution of the project by this novel staircase design is to save about 90% of the space normally required by a conventional spiral staircase. This novel design could be used in space critical applications particularly in urban areas.

He said that earlier too he invented a device which indicates the arrival of the school bus and won a merit award at a competition organised by the Science Union of Ananda College. His ambition is to be an Electronics Engineer.

Praveej Malinda Jayasinghe having won the second place at the Junior Inventor of the Year 2007 competition (Sri Lanka Science and Engineering Fair) organised by the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka is a Year 11 student from St Anthony's College.

He is also the youngest in his family with one elder sister and the 'baby' in the team as well. His father is a Bank Manager while the mother is a teacher.

Nutmeg cutter

Speaking of his invention the nutmeg cutter, he said that he saw how difficult it was to cut nutmeg as there was no proper tool readily available in the market for removing seeds from raw nutmegs. Seed removing from nutmeg is the first step in the processing of nutmeg and the present method used is time consuming and causes damage to the seeds.

"The device developed by me is very simple and easy to manufacture at reasonable costs. This consists of two curved blades of which one is mounted on the fixed (lower) arm and the other is on the moving (upper) arm with the help of a mounting shaft in such a manner that two curved edges of blades face each other.

The mounting shaft is passed through a hole made on the upper arm and its top end is connected to a small turning lever.

The blade mounted on the moving (upper) arm can be turned either side by rotating the small lever fixed to the opposite end of the mounting shaft of the blade. A cylindrical section mounted to the bottom arm, is fixed surrounding the blade to hold the nutmeg.

Removing seeds from nuts are done by placing them on the holding cylindrical section surrounding the bottom blade and applying force to the upper arm and simultaneously turning the blade handle slightly to either side.

Electronics engineer

This device was tested and found to be very useful for nutmeg farmers for manufacturing high quality seeds and improving productivity. It can be manufactured at a low cost and could be adopted for other applications as well. His ambition too is to be an electronics engineer.

Sajeewa Dinesh Hendurugoda, a student of Nugawela Central College, Kandy awaiting his O/L results secured a merit award from the Junior Inventor of the year 2007 competition (Sri Lanka Science and Engineering Fair) organised by the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka.

The eldest son in his family he is 17 years. "My father is a carpenter while my mother is a housewife," he said. "I faced a problem in watering the plants in my garden. Then I began to think of a method to overcome that difficulty and my invention is a device to detect the wetness of the soil in a pot. If the wetness is lower than the required level this system will automatically distribute water to the plant, said Hendurugoda.

He said that he has invented a projector which can be used to observe star patterns. I won a merit award at the Invention competition organised by the Kandy province in 2003.My ambition is to be a Mechanical Engineer.

All three children thanked their parents and those who helped them to develop their inventions. They are undergoing training at the Moratuwa University where they learn how to use modern laboratory equipment and the modern technology at the University.

It's a valuable opportunity to interact with University academics, students and other staff." They help to develop our presentation skills, language skills, attitudinal changes and leadership qualities necessary to face an international competition.


Informatics new AvaBill system launched

The Tonga Communication Corporation (TCC) of Tonga in the South Pacific launched its new billing system, AvaBill Software, developed by Informatics International Limited.

The TCC Sales and Marketing Manager Tai'atu Cocker said that the new system is used by telecommunications companies in various parts of the world to network their three services, fixed line network, mobile network and internet.

The AvaBill Software replaced the old billing system that was operated manually. Tai'atu said that TCC decided to buy the new billing system because of demand by customers for a better billing service, and since May 2007 they have been working with the Sri Lankan company to install the new system.

Tai'atu said that the new system is high cost "because the equipment, which brought from overseas was very expensive and the installations were extensive, at TCC offices in Tongatapu and Vava'u. The new system will be only effective in Tongatapu and Vava'u because this is where a majority of our customers are. The remaining outer islands will be linked later."

Tai'atu said that with the system all operations would be more efficient and will be automated and accessible widely throughout the company.

"This means if there is a complaint by a customer or a bill requested they could do so and get the result in a few hours at any booth or station in Tongatapu and Vava'u.

"With the old system these services could only be provided at the main office at Fongoloa because they are the only one accessible to the information and bills were usually issued a few days after a customer's requested.

"In the near future the new Customer Care and Billing system will bill customers in one format if requested.

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